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!!!

The Surprise Gift!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the Inkspirational Messages posts these past two weeks. It’s so much fun hearing about my fellow Inkspers’ childhoods. And I’m completely amazed at how many actually still own toys from their childhood. Like the others, I played with dolls (Barbies mostly) and paper dolls, but they’re long gone. And, honestly, I can’t recall a specific item that stood out as a Christmas gift.

Well, there was one gift that stands out. I received it during winter time, but I don’t recall if it was for Christmas.

Let me back up a bit and give you the entire story (as I remember it, that is.) One day when I was in school (don’t remember what grade), my mom came to pick me and my siblings up. This never happened, mind you. We took the bus. Always. All Mom would say was that she had a surprise for us at home.

So, we kids are all dying, wondering what was so important! Never had the two mile drive from town seemed so long.

We pulled into the driveway, Mom parked the car by the house, and there was a collective squeal from the station wagon. Sitting there in the middle of our backyard was a shiny yellow Ski-Doo! Having grown up in a family that loved snowmobiling, a family who owned a couple of heavy Polaris’ sleds that I hated driving, this made our winter! The biggest problem was sharing it with six siblings.

My snowmobiling days are long behind me, and I don’t know whatever became of that Ski-Doo, but I’ll never forget that day. Hmm, I’m gonna have to talk with my siblings and see if they remember it the same way…

(The above pic isn’t our Ski-doo, but it sure looks like a great sled, doesn’t it?)

Winter Wiener Roast

campfire-burning-nighttime-954241[1]Winter is just around the corner and with it comes a whole new set of jobs on the farm. Like cutting down dead trees and shrubs around the fields and waiting for a calm day to set it all on fire.

I guess I should set the record straight to clear up any confusion. This really isn’t my job but my husband’s. My job when the kids were small was to get the fixin’s ready for the world’s largest wiener roast.

Years ago when my husband came to the door one cold winter brush burning day and asked if I had any hotdogs, I thought he was crazy. A wiener roast in this weather? With two young kids? I was thinking maybe he could roast them and bring them to the house for us to eat in the warmth of the kitchen. But his idea was better.

We hurried into our insulated coveralls, hats, boots, and gloves and crammed into the pickup beside him, a picnic basket wedged between my feet. We bounced across the snowy field in the early dusk, following the orange glow in the distance. After arriving at the bonfire, we clambered out and set up kitchen on the tailgate.

The humongous fire had been burning all day, so by the time we arrived it had burned down enough that my husband and I could find a spot glowing with red coals, perfect for roasting hotdogs. After supper was served, we settled onto our upside down 5-gallon buckets to dine in the warmth of the fire. Of course, we followed up with a dessert of roasted marshmallows.

Soon our faces were hot so we turned our backs to the fire but then our fingers were cold and sticky from marshmallow goo, so we turned back around. As darkness fell we gathered our supplies and crawled back into the pickup, cranking the heat up before heading for home.

For several years our winter wiener roast became tradition, an activity we all looked forward to. But sooner than I wanted, we outgrew our annual trek to the roaring bonfire. Kids and wiener roasts only go together for so long. Burning brush is now simply that and nothing more.

Though our winter wiener roast may be a thing of the past, we’re making many new memories to take its place.

Do you have a favorite memory from way back when (or maybe not so far back) that you’d like to share?

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We’re celebrating the release of Shannon’s latest title, Rodeo Queen for the next two weeks. Shannon is giving away 2 print copies. All comments will go into a drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.
                                                                    

CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN 

Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.

Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?

 

The Blessing of Girlfriends

Girlfriends rock. They make us laugh and cry, they hold our hands and give us hugs. Occasionally they make us crazy but they always have our back.

Grandview Lodge - Photo by Travelocity.com

I just returned from a long weekend with 6 of my very closest friends, all sisters in Christ. It was our third annual Girls Getaway where we head “up north” about two hours and stay at the Grandview Lodge in Nisswa, Minnesota.

We had grand plans for this weekend. The resort was offering dog sledding, snowshoeing and other fun activities. I have a brand new, and as yet unused, pair of snowshoes – couldn’t wait to try them out with the girls. Food assignments were planned (a dinner out the first night, our own soup and salad dinner the second night, lots of snacks including chocolate – of course), drivers set, bags packed.

Then came the forecast. It’s cold in Minnesota in January. We get that. We’re a hardy group up here, even those of us who aren’t particularly outdoorsy. Winter is best experienced by being out there enjoying it. So even though it was going to be cold, we were still game to try a few activities. However, there’s a limit – even for Minnesotans.

Saturday morning we headed northwest on I-94 and, after our usual pitstop for coffee and the restroom, arrived around 1:00 for Nisswa’s “Stop, Shop and Stroll” extravaganza. It was about 30 degrees when we left the Twin Cities. By 2:00, in Central Minnesota, the winds kicked in and the temperature dropped 20 degrees. We literally ran from shop to shop. A little blustery wind and light snow can’t stop these gals from finding bargains!

After shopping, we checked into our 3-bedroom cabin, laid out a spread worthy of the Queen, and got busy chatting and eating. One of our group of 7 is single, so we had a riot looking at her “matches” on eharmony, and agreed on one we thought would be perfect for her. She “smiled” at him.

After a lovely meal at the local supper club (honest – there’s a supper club in Nisswa), we settled in with wine and chocolate, chatting into the night. Sunday morning we woke to below zero temps and decided to forgo outdoor activities.  We’re hardy but we’re not stupid! Instead we shopped the local towns then settled back in to celebrate that the “match” had smiled back at our friend. This dating stuff is serious business so we helped her decide what questions to ask for step 2.

Monday morning we woke to -17 degrees. The only reason we left the cabin was for the fabulous resort brunch. More chatting, eating, and celebrating over a response from the “match” and helping her answer his questions (like she couldn’t do it on her own!). It’s always amazing that, after almost twenty-five years together, we never run out of stuff to talk about.

Now we’ve returned to our respective homes and families, back to the real world of work, laundry, pets and cooking. But we didn’t return the same as when we left. We shared laughter and tears, told stories, asked questions. We traded pieces of our lives and chunks of our hearts. Because that’s what girlfriends do.

(l to r) Gail, Theresa, me, Nancy, Sue, Ruth, Wendy)

God blesses all of us in a million ways every day – in big ways and small. One of those blessings comes in the shape of a girlfriend. Round, short, tall, thin, dark, light – doesn’t matter because they are gift-wrapped in the light of God’s heart.

Girlfriends. What a blessing. (And yes, we’ve already got our reservation set for next year. Bring it on!)

POSITIVELY HEART-WARMING . . .

Thoughts that warm my heart . . . wow.

Not an easy subject, especially this time of year. As most of us have written, it’s been C-O-L-D this week, the weather hasn’t been cooperative, studies are showing that this is the most depressing week in the year, and all this leads to that overwhelming feeling of doubt and fear.

So you want me to tell you what warms my heart? If I tell you, I’m afraid (there’s that word again) I’ll be stumbling into the forest of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Glass half empty . . . Eeyore . . .  But maybe not . . . Maybe if I think really hard . . .

1.  Snuggling on the couch with my husband while it snows outside, no sound but the gentle “hiss” of the gas logs and the occasional tapping at the keys of a computer or the gentle whoosh of a page being turned.

We haven’t had a “good” snow day this year. And to me, the first sign of a GOOD one is if everything has to shut down. Being in a small southern town, that’s not as unlikely as it would be in a larger town – but that doesn’t take into consideration that my husband, now a school administrator, is more liable to be there whether or not “everything” is shut down or not. It may or may not happen but either way, the possibility always warms my heart.

beach sunset2.  A daily walk along a deserted beach, the sun gently warming my skin as I lift my face into the breeze off the ocean.

I was treated to a week of this, this past summer, in South Carolina. The beach was never truly deserted, but one afternoon, after a pop thunderstorm, my husband and I walked on an almost deserted beach as the sun set underneath a bank of clouds. Just thinking about it warms my heart.

3.  Holding a sleeping infant.

I was fortunate to be at home with my babies. My oldest loved to be rocked to sleep, so that was a given. My youngest did NOT, but she was born in January, so those blessed early months were wonderfully full of snuggling. Now, at 15 and 20, they are both snugglers. That warms my heart.

Picture 450.crop4.  Hearing your child make a declaration about pursuing excellence that you know comes from deep within. She really gets it.

“I didn’t REALIZE there was a band above mine, or I would have auditioned for it!” She was first-chair oboe, as a Freshman, in the All-District Honor “Concert” Band. Who knew there was a “Symphonic” band? 😉

5.  Walking into a freshly-vacuumed house.

This probably warms my heart as much as anything, because not only do I have the knowledge that my family loves and cares for me, but I get to rest in a clean house. Yes, it may seem like a small thing, but it definitely warms my heart.

I read a devotional recently that spoke of “gracious uncertainty,” and focused on Romans 5:5—“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Life is full of disappointments, but hope has no part in that. God has given us a way out of disappointments, but He has also given us the freedom to CHOOSE whether or not to be disappointed.

Some days I choose disappointment over the love He has for me. That’s unfortunate. Then a day comes along that I have to stop and seriously THINK about what warms my heart. That’s when I know that God’s grace has seen me through more than just cold weather and times when I think life’s simply not fair.

Life is NOT fair, but we have a God who loves us even when we think the glass is half empty. We have a God who has offered us eternal life. We just have to accept it.

THAT warms my heart.

A Walk In The Snow

The night sky sprinkled white fluffy snow on the ground and the temperature hovered just below the freezing point.  It was the perfect Christmas Eve weather, so hubby and I bundled up our brand new baby girl and went for a walk in the neighborhood.  Most of the houses had Christmas lights and decorations. At one point, I looked at my baby girl.  Her eyes—the only part of her visible between the hood of her suit and the scarf covering the rest of her face—were as big as saucers and shined as bright as the red, blue, green and yellow lights illuminating our impromptu night walk. And there began our own little family tradition.

On Christmas Eve, we’d bundle the children, go to early Mass, usually around 7-7:30pm696449_sleigh_ride, come back home, then go for a long walk in the neighborhood to look at all the lights and decorations. Once or twice, when the temperature was too cold to venture outside for any length of time, we actually rode through the neighborhood. Then, we’d go back home and we’d sit around the Christmas tree. When they were little, the children believed in Santa, but they also knew that mom, dad, grandma and grandpa gave them gifts. They all had one stocking and two gifts under the tree. The stocking was from my in-laws, one gift was from my parents and the other one was from us (it was always new pajamas or nightgowns LOL) So we let them open their gift from us, they’d go put their new pajama/nightgown on, and come back under the tree where they were allowed to open the gift of one set of grandparents. They always picked the stockings because it was filled with little gifts inside. After that, they’d put a plate of cookie and a glass of milk under the tree for Santa, and went to bed with hope and anticipation.669814_milk_and_cookies

Hubby and I would watch a movie while we waited for all of them to fall asleep, then the frenzy would begin. We’d pull the gifts from our secret hiding place, wrap them and place them under the tree. Then we’d go to bed. In the morning, the girls would wake us up with “It’s Christmas!” And then, sometimes they’d add that they couldn’t find their little brother in his bed. The little guy would get up in the middle of the night, drag his blanket with him into the living room and fall asleep at the foot of the Christmas tree, beside the empty plate and glass.

Christmas morning was spent opening presents and talking with relatives on the phone. Then I’d be making a turkey dinner and invite friends over. Such is the fate of a military family. Friends become your family, the ones with whom you share the special occasions.

1197950431QjhYEyOver the years, the tradition evolved. One after the other, the children stopped believing in Santa and they began wrapping and planning surprises under the tree. We also went from the early Mass to the midnight Mass where my daughter sings. But there’s one thing that never changed, we always start Christmas Eve with a long walk in the neighborhood to look at the lights.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!