Winter or Spring- Straddling the Line

It’s that time of year.Early spring, or six more weeks of winter? Here in the upper South, we can go either way.

The one and only snow day in Central Arkansas so far fell on the day last month when hubby and I were scheduled to leave for a Caribbean cruise! Around here, just a little bit of snow can shut down roads and cause havoc. Since we live around 20 miles from the airport, we spent a little extra money to stay in a hotel just a hop and a skip across the freeway from the runway. This gamble paid off for sure, as we were able to sleep confidently. Roads leading to the airport are among the first to be cleared. The next morning, there was just a dusting of white stuff, and no ice underneath, so we navigated the overpass, left our car in the cold, and headed for warmer climates.

When we connected in Atlanta, the terminals were buzzing with talk of an ice storm. Ours was one of the last planes to leave for Florida before the weather shut things down in Georgia’s busiest city.

Even in Florida, and on the ship, the weather was unseasonable. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s and strong winds made for choppy seas, and even a change in our schedule. But we did have a sunny day on the beach, and another warm one on a fishing excursion.

Back at home, there has been no more below freezing weather. Just a weekly roller coaster of winter, back to spring, and even summer. The plants are confused. Flowers and shrubs are blooming earlier than normal, and we go from shorts and flip-flops to scarves and boots with little notice.

I’m not complaining. It certainly keeps life interesting. But, I am just hoping that the beautiful blooms won’t be bitten by that last icy blast that always seems to arrive just before Easter Sunday.

God has a plan.He just keeps the weather men guessing in the Natural State!!!

Lickety Split Summer

My summer has been a bit on the tame side this year so far. Money has been tight since my husband expanded his food service business. I have spent time helping fill in spots since he and my son have been taking turns getting the new kitchen up and running. (On the right is a personal planner with calendar I created for myself. I’m quite proud of it.)

In between our crazy busy schedule, I have taken time to make a couple of scrapbook albums (I create them from scratch, including the cover and binding) and have had two of my manuscripts edited to be sent out this fall to editors and agents. A third book I’m still working on with an eye toward self-publishing. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.

Splickety LogoMy biggest change this summer has been in becoming the Operations Manager of Splickety Publishing Group. Splickety is the leader in flash fiction stories, having three imprints under its umbrella: Splickety Prime, Havok, and Splickety Love. As expected, Splickety Love handles love stories, Havok is our Sci-Fi/Fantasy line, and Prime handles everything in between. It’s been great getting to know everyone there, and learning many new things.

If you don’t know what flash fiction is, I encourage you to visit our Lightning Blog here for a taste. Our current story, Loving Carter Scott by Whitney L. Schwartz is a sweet love story featuring something I am quite familiar with-the Iowa State Fair. If you like sweet love stories and carnivals, be sure to read it!

I don’t mind saying we have some pretty amazing authors, and even more awesome stories. Shameless plug ahead: if you like what you see on the blog, you can subscribe to any of the imprints you think you’d like on the subscribe page. You won’t regret it.

It seems like yesterday my son was getting out of school and looking forward to camp. Time flies by lickety split, if you know what I mean. I am looking forward to the end of summer, however, because Lorna and I are going on a cruise to Alaska. I’m sure we’ll return with many stories to tell.

Summer!

 

Summer. It’s a time of love, laughter and fun. For me it is a nostalgic time in my childhood. Being military we traveled so much and that was great. I wouldn’t change it for anything. But what made all the moving great was the summers. Because every summer we would come home to grandma’s. And we’d stay for three months. We’d play in the rice field, ride the four-wheeler (it was actually a three-wheeler back then), play hide and seek in the farm machinery (it’s a wonder we never got hurt) and spend our days outside in the hot Arkansas sun.

Then we’d come inside for some of grandma’s good home cooking straight from the garden. I remember creamed corn, green beans, fresh sliced tomatoes with a juicy roast. She’d top our bellies off with a homemade strawberry shortcake and coffee (I know, I started drinking young ;).

Then our family cleared the dinner table, helped mom with the dishes (begrudgingly) and pulled out the cards. Spades, Hand and Foot (similar to canasta), Nerts, etc. We would even throw in some dominoes or yahtzee now and again.

While it isn’t anything spectacular, it’s what summer means to me.

Summer Memories on the Farm

Summer on the farm is a beautiful place. The baby calves born in the spring are growing up, their spindly little legs are filling out. In earlier years, a couple of choice calves would come to live in the lot by the house for the kids to care for and show at the county fair. But with 4-H behind us now, I’m content to watch the little calves romp in the green pastures with all their little buddies. Sometimes the little cuties are brave and come close to the Ranger and pose for my camera, especially when they’re very young.

In the evenings lightning bugs flicker about the yard, reminding me of all those years Mom poked holes in the lids of old peanut butter jars to make a home for all my bugs with twinkling behinds. After shoving in some blades of grass and adding a drop of water, I set my flashy new friends on my bedroom windowsill, only to turn them out in the morning to fly back to their families.

On evenings when the work is caught up, we load into the open-topped Jeep and go for a ride. Dirt roads are the best with their twists and turns and remnants of buildings from yesteryear. As empty nesters, it’s just my hubby and me, and of course the pooch can’t be left behind.

The Fourth of July in our neck of the woods is nearly always spent in New Market, Iowa where I spent every Independence Day when I was young. When my husband and I had kids, we shared this tradition with them every year and if for some reason we missed, it just didn’t seem right. This tiny town of a few hundred residents swells to thousands of people to help celebrate our nation’s freedom. From the tractor pulls, ATV races, parade, and carnival games in the town’s only park, New Market is a happening place on the Fourth of July. As darkness falls, the explosion of fireworks set to music is a display you won’t soon forget.

003Summertime on the farm wouldn’t be complete without a few trips to Bedford to the best little hamburger and ice cream shop I’ve ever been. You haven’t tasted ice cream unless you’ve been to the Frosty Trete and sat on the picnic tables beneath the awning feasting on a Banana Cream Pieclone or a fresh raspberry shake made with real fruit. Of course, there are plenty of other flavors too. (They make a mean cheeseburger, also, if you’re so inclined.) What began as a treat when I was a kid, became a tradition for my family now.

storm cloudsSummer is over halfway gone but I still have time for one of my most favorite things. God painted the most gorgeous sunsets on the farm. There’s nothing more peaceful than watching the sun chase rainbow colored reflections across a shimmering pond or casting a purplish peach glow on formidable storm clouds. Out here on the farm the sun often likes to go out with a bang.

Memories come in all different ways but most of my summertime favorites take place in the great outdoors. There’s no better way to enjoy God’s wondrous playground.

A New Way-kind of Summer

Ah, summer.

That magical time of year when anything can happen, or at least that’s what I like to think. It’s a break from the routine of life: from school, from work, from closed-toe shoes, from pants and sweaters, from the mundane routine that can get boring and stale and old. It means seeing family and cousins you haven’t seen for a while, visiting new places, and reading at leisure for more than a few minutes at a time.

Summer 1986
My mom and me on one of our family vacations, probably around 1986.

When I was a kid, summer meant a break from school (even though I was one of the weird kids who really liked school and eagerly awaited buying supplies like pencils and notebooks and colorful folders). My family usually took some sort of vacation, even if it was just camping in a state park. One of my favorite vacations involved camping with my cousins when I was around five or six. My cousin Jamie was three weeks younger than me, and being two towheaded kids, we looked like twins and were inseperable. I have no idea how long that trip was, but I have fond memories of Jamie and I hiking our campsites together, seeing Mt. Rushmore, and exploring Story Book Island in South Dakota. When I was older, we still went camping, but then it was my brother that tagged along with me, even though we had that unspoken sibling agreement to ignore each other completely when it was convenient, and to “not touch” each other in the minivan.

When I got to high school, summer meant one thing: New Way Singers. I had the privilege of being a part of Nebraska Christian College’s New Way Singers program for four years, every year I completed a year of high school. This meant rehearing with about a hundred and twenty other high schoolers for several days at the beginning of June, then sending us all out on three tour buses around the Midwest to perform concerts every night at churches for a week and a half. The three tours would then come back together for a final concert a the end of the tours.

Forty-plus kids on a tour bus with handful of adults for two weeks? What couldn’t be fun about that?

NWS 2000
New Way Singers East Tour, 2000. This was my junior year, the year of the blue polos. See if you can spot me!

I had a blast! I got to do three of the things I love: sing, worship Jesus, and make new friends. We would start each concert with the New Way Singers theme song, which would start with our group of forty singers at the back of the sanctuary. The music would begin and we’d start snapping our fingers to the rhythm, marching up the aisle in pairs of two. When we reached the stage and mounted the risers, we’d keep our backs to the audience until the last singer had reached the stage. Then, on cue, we’d whip around and start singing:

“Start the music! Let the melody begin! Our song is just waiting to be sung!”

NWS 2001 Final Concert
Final concert in 2001, the year of the red racing polos. We always performed one song with sign language.

After each concert, members of that congregation would volunteer to house us students for the night. Believe me, I’ve stayed at some interesting places! Elderly people who wanted nothing more than to hear about our lives, young couples who were on fire for Jesus, and families with kids who wanted us to play with them: they all came to our concerts and opened their homes and hearts to us. There was the one couple who had four of us girls stay in a trailer on their property and had a composting toilet. There was the teenage daughter of a single mother who let us sleep in her room, but she had to listen to Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever” song to go to sleep. I think it looped about 15 times before I finally fell asleep that night. I still can’t hear that song without shuddering. (Sadly, it’s the weird homes that I remember most!).

While the performing was undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of New Ways, the friendships and memories I made are also high on the list. From staying up all night talking on a backyard trampoline, and riding roller coasters until we threw up, to “cruising” through someone’s (extremely small) hometown late at night and praying together with new friends, it was two weeks of my life that I miss just a little bit every summer.

Family Camp

This has been so fun celebrating Shari’s Camp Club Girls release, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation included in the 3 in 1 volume, Operation: Excitement!. Like most of the Inkspers, I don’t have any of my own camp experiences (barely made it through Girl Scout Day Camp – I was lonesome!!), but we had wonderful family camp experiences through our church. I coordinated many of the weekends, which was a HUGE amount of work, but camp itself was soooo much fun, it was worth it.

Family Camp was at Camp Lebanon in Upsala, MN, about an hour and a half northwest of our home. A perfect distance for driving with two little kids anxious to get to camp. As you an see from the photo, it’s not exactly roughing it at Camp Lebanon! It’s definitely “camp” but along with the requisite cabins, there’s a lovely A-frame Lodge (air conditioned!), and the remodeled main lodge (at left in the photo).

Family Camp-Camp LebanonThere was always something to do during Family Camp – either our organized activities or those put on by the camp. We provided lots of large group and family things to do – Olympics (a huge hit), kick ball games (required every year, the adults and kids had so much fun), a talent show, hikes, bonfires with s’mores, morning worship together, boat rides, fishing, paddleboats and canoes, swimming at the beach. And lots of camp crafts (which always seemed to include popsicle sticks and colored pipe cleaners – lots of popsicle sticks).

We’d all cheer each others kids on as they tested to be allowed to swim out “to the raft.” For those who couldn’t pass the swimming test (done by the lifeguards), we made sure they had fun in the shallower water. And we’d celebrate when they passed the following year.

We attended family camp for eight years – the kids were teeny the first year, and in upper elementary by the time we stopped. They couldn’t WAIT to get there – once we unloaded the car, they were gone! And the best part was that our church group took up pretty much the whole camp so we were all watching out for each others kids (and the kids knew it so they had to behave because there were dozens of parents watching them, not just their own!).

We also went to Camp Lebanon for Marriage Retreats. Without kids. It was heaven.

I could fill pages sharing memories of this wonderful time (including the time I had strep – at both the Marriage Retreat in the winter and at Family Camp the following summer), and stories about the lifelong friendships that were made. It was a time that truly blessed our family, and many other families as well.

Comment or share your camp experience to enter the drawing for a copy of Operation: Excitement!

Operation Excitement!Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

Special Note:  I won’t be able to respond to your comments as I will be in Italy when this post hits the Inkspirational Messages blog, so have fun answering each others comments!! Sorry to miss the fun!

So Not a Camper

We’re celebrating the release of Shari’s Camp Club Girls release, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation included in the 3 in 1 volume, Operation: Excitement!

When I tell people I never went to church camp, they always seem shocked. I guess they assume this preacher’s wife grew up in church. But I didn’t start consistently attending until I was twelve. And our church was very small. Small as in twelve members who were all related to me on my mom’s side or my dad’s. There weren’t any kids my age. There were some younger cousins five and under, but I don’t remember camp ever being mentioned. If our church had sent kids to camp, I wouldn’t have gone. I’m not the rough it type.

Gold Hiking SandalsI’ve always said my idea of camping would be a motor home with electricity, great air conditioning, and plumbing. But I like Dawn’s idea better – a cabin with electricity, great air conditioning, and plumbing. With accommodations like that, I probably wouldn’t go outside. I don’t like bugs, heat, humidity, or critters such as ticks and snakes, and I’m extremely allergic to poison ivy. Camping in a cabin in the fall would be nice.

Last summer, I had my first and only brush with camping when my local writers group, ACFW AR had a retreat at a church camp. We slept in squeaky bunk beds with ladders in the middle of one side and the open side against the wall. We all chose the bottom bunks, but the top might have been better. Crawling out the hole beside the ladder was a bit like crawling out of the birth canal. The showers were and toilets were all in one long room in stalls with shower curtains.

I was completely unprepared and never dreamed we’d go hiking. I brought two pairs of wedge sandals–no tennis shoes. But never one to use my shoes as an excuse, I went on the prayer walk in my gold and rhinestone sandals. It turned out to be a mountain climbing expedition and my shoes became forever known as my hiking boots. Those are the intrepid hikers above: Debbie Sheetrum, Rosie Baldwin, Ann McCauley, and me.

This year, our writers group found a Bed & Breakfast used for Christian retreats. Talk about accommodations. Technically, it couldn’t beRustic Retreat called camping, but it was my idea of camping. Nice beds, rustic decor, and very comfy with two bathrooms. The mosquitoes were thick, so I didn’t step outside except when I arrived and when I left. I don’t like the smell of Off. They need to come up with a perfume scented version. I told you, I don’t rough it.

Comment or share your camp experience to enter the drawing for a copy of Operation: Excitement!

Operation Excitement!Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

 

Steampunk Summer

I have spent my summer watching videos on You Tube for tutorials on how to put a steampunk/mad hatter outfit together and making cheap steampunk accessories and scouring second hand stores for just the right piece to add to my costume for the special dinner we will have this evening at the Realm Maker’s conference in St. Louis. I am quite happy with what I’ve come up with, and I hope it won’t look as contrived as it probably is. Here’s a what I did:

I started with a dress Lorna and I found and I bought on sale at Dillards two years ago. The neckline was a bit low for my taste, though, so when I found something I liked better, I wore it to the ACFW conference instead. I loved the rich chocolate color and the feel of the skirt so with a little help from a good friend of mine who is able to wield a sewing machine (shout out to Cathy B.!!), we got that pesky top removed from the skirt. Cathy hemmed the skirt up and voila! We have an amazing start to an outfit.

Steampunk AccesoriesThe blouse I found at a costume shop in one of the malls in Omaha in the RenFair section. I was amazed to find the blouse compliments the chocolate skirt, which is great because I wanted it to be brown, not white or black like most steampunk chemises are. Add a leather and crochet jacket from the Goodwill, along with a large feather and netting flower which I glued cogs and watch parts on. I’m loving it so far.

My oldest son Austin bought the cutest pair of boots for me at Christmas. They are brown and although they actually zip up, look like they are lace-up. Then, for my birthday this year hubs bought me a “watch” which is actually the inner workings of a pocketwatch set in leather to look like a watch and a spring banded ring which sports a propeller, owl head and matching bead (can you say AWESOME!). This will go nicely with the magnifier necklace of my mother’s which I added a small skeleton key to round it off.

The hat is really the topper of the outfit, though. A few years back our local IN writer’s group got together for the Abraham Lincoln Steampunk Hatdisplay in Omaha. While there I bought a top hat which mimicked President Lincoln’s. I dusted it off, added a beaded scarf, beaded bobby pins, and a decorative watch pin I found at a second hand store. Lorna’s father was called upon for a special favor and he found a pair of old welding goggles in his basement for me to borrow. They are wire rimmed (!!), have green glass lens (!!!), and the sides flip in (!!!!!!!!!!!!). As Lorna would say: Oh. My. Cow! They are more than amazing. I will add a 10/6 sizer card to complete the steampunked Mad Hatter theme.

Whew! That was a lot of work, but so much fun to put together. I promise to post the end result on Facebook.

Biker Babe Scoops the Loop

Harley, Mike and meIt’s official. I’m a biker babe. That is, if wearing a doo rag and a Harley sweatshirt while riding on the back of my husband’s bike means anything.

When he bought his Harley earlier this year, I was anything but enthused. My opinion of motorcycles is they’re okay for everyone else but not for me or my family. Cruising down the road on the back of a skinny little bike with cars and big ole trucks flying by doesn’t exactly make me feel safe and secure. I’ve never been much of a thrill seeker, so biking was excitement I planned to do without. That is, until my husband took me to the Harley dealer and led me over to the helmet display. Minutes later I was the less-than-proud owner of my very own shiny black helmet.   

After arriving home with his new toy, my husband decided to go for another spin, so I convinced myself to act the part of the good, dutiful wife. I donned my newly acquired Harley attire and climbed on the back of his bike, holding on for dear life to his belt loops as we headed down the road.

Two hours later we returned home with me walking bow-legged and a body that ached from head to toe. But that was nothing compared to the sight that greeted me when I looked in the bathroom mirror. Helmets should come with a warning label, because my hair will never be the same again. The inside of the helmet had teased my hair so badly it came out in handfuls—literally—when I tried to comb it. I vowed to never, ever ride that bike again—until my husband introduced me to the doo rag to wear beneath the helmet (because I like my head too much to go without a helmet.) Fortunately for him, the doo rag solved the hair falling out problem, so I relented and crawled on the back of the bike again.

Slowly I’m learning to enjoy the bike, except for the bumpy roads that bounce my innards to pieces. Cruising the nice smooth back country highways is actually quite relaxing on a warm summer day, if I remember to shut my mouth so I won’t get bugs in my teeth. (No, it hasn’t happened yet, but I saw it in a movie once. Gross.)

So far my favorite bike ride this summer is scooping the loop—a popular activity from my younger days that some ingenious soul resurrected for the first Saturday night of the summer months. People cruise in their cars—some antique or muscle—old or new pickups, bikes, and even antique fire trucks from one end of our small town to the other. Then we turn around and do it all over again and again, waving at the spectators who’ve lined the streets watching the parade of vehicles. The town square is the unofficial place to park and shoot the breeze with other cruisers. Before the sun goes down, we say our good-byes and head for home.

But we’ll be back soon for the next Scoop the Loop, to be a part of the social scene. Life is good in this small Iowa town, especially when cruising on the back of a bike.  

Fun in the Sun!

Flip flops, sunscreen, and picnics. It only takes a few words to conjur up images of summer–the season of fun.

But summer means something different to each of us. Like the picture says, “Every summer has its own story.” For the next two weeks, the Inkspers would like to share the stories of each of their summers. You may hear about a memorable summer from long ago or what happened yesterday. No matter what, you’ll get to bask in the sunshine along with each of us.

My summer

Camp

Camp

Lake

Fair

Camp

Lake

Yep, that about sums it up.

Oh, you want more detail? Why didn’t you say so? At the beginning of the summer, I joined my husband and our friend Jenny in directing a 4-H camp for eighty 5th and 6th grade 4h’ers. The counselors were excellent this year. Being around such incredible young people gives you so much confidence in the next generation, and a summer just wouldn’t be complete for me without singing “Herman the Worm.”

CampWildDavidIf you’d like to view the “Camp Wild 2013 Junior 4-H Camp” click here. I’m warning you, however, it’s 11 minutes long and you won’t find me in it. Jenny makes the video, and she and I have a pack about staying out of it. The photo at the left my husband David helping a boy launch his air rocket.

Only a week after returning home, I was off to teach 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Bible camp. We had a great week learning about the fruit of the Spirit, and we even got to play “Let’s Make a Deal” on the last day of class. The fun night theme was SPACE, and I got to pass out Alien Eyeballs.

AlienTo make your own Alien Eyeballs, wash  green grapes, roll them in lime Jell-O, and freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. They taste a lot like Sour Patch candies.

After a brief trip to Minnesota, it was fair time. Besides having a daughter in 4-H, I am a 4-H leader, so this is a busy time for us. We don’t have any animals, but our youngest is involved in lots of other project areas including table setting, food and nutrition, and communications.

EmmaSarahShe and her partner won champion intermediate working exhibit for their Monster Markers (bookmarks). She made yummy zucchini pineapple bread and chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes to die for. She ended up having a great fair and will advance to the State fair with two projects and Regionals with one.

Soon, we’ll be heading out for Kinney Kamp. My extended family rents the Bible camp for three days to have our own family camp. There’s about 34 of us, and even though we all live near one another, we don’t often get the chance to “play” together. I absolutely love seeing the cousins getting to make memories together.

Memories. I think that’s what summer is all about. What about you? Do you have any camp or fair memories you’d like to share?