Friday, March 16, 2018

The Day That Didn't

You know how it is when you hear about an event and you can't get the idea out of your head that you'd like to go? You're sure that if you don't go, you'll wish you would have but you're afraid that if you do go, it will end up not being any good. And, if you're like me, if you do go and it ends up not being any good, the day will become a hopelessly wasted one that you now know -- beyond a shadow of doubt -- you should have spent at home to start with.

Maybe none of you are like me.

If that scenario does ring a bell in your mind, you probably learned long before the age of 39 how to handle such issues. I can't say that I've learned, but I think I might be learn-ing.

I think the first time I consciously made a choice to break my trend was when we took our famous train ride. Many times since then, when I'm tempted to grovel in despair that I've made the wrong choice and the day has been ruined, I'm reminded that I have a choice to make and my feelings aren't necessarily true. Actually, I've started trying to remember to do one better than that. When I've finally made the decision to do one of those things that I've gone back and forth and around and around on, I pray about it. I tell God, "Please would you bless this day as I go __________. I would love it if everything goes the way I'd like it to go but if nothing goes right, I'll be ok with that too."

And then I do my best to keep my promise.

Yesterday was one of those days. I'd heard that Zinck's fabric store was having a 50% off sale on some of their dress fabric this week. I find fabric for a lot of my girl's school dresses at that store so it seemed like an event that I should try to take advantage of. But that meant an hour + trip and pretty much spending a whole day away from home. Should I or shouldn't I? There was no way Chris could take a day off and turn it into a date day. Should I go alone or ask someone to go with me? Yes or no; around and around.

I'd finally decided I would just go alone but the night before, all my usual second guessing began. I could just see the van leave me set somewhere or spending the whole day away and coming home with nothing. For every reason I had thought I would rather just go alone, I now knew having someone along would be better. The very fact that I was so nervous about the whole thing was probably a clear indicator that I should just stay home, you know?

In the morning, I fished for sympathy from my husband. All I got was, "If you get left set somewhere, I'll come and pick you up personally." Which sounded to me a lot more like, "You're being silly but I'll humor you a bit," rather than the sincere sympathy I was coveting. Deep down inside, I knew I was being ridiculous. So, I said my prayer and set off with my trusty GPS, determined to keep my promise.

My first stop was a large, lovely Goodwill. I've found lots of treasures there numerous times in the past but in spite of enjoying meandering through the aisles, this time I left with exactly one item. A pair of pants for Charles in the next size up that I wasn't sure if I should even buy.

From there, I punched in another thrift store and promptly did one of my directionally challenged deals, which is the reason I use a GPS religiously even though it doesn't take care of all my driving issues. What I did was forget that there are two thrift stores with the same name and select the one I didn't want to go to and assumed the GPS was taking me a different way instead of going the way I was familiar with. Oh well, I'd check out this location for a change.

Let's just say, the Lord didn't arrange that mistake so that I would find some wonderful bargain. I walked out of that store with nothing.

By that time, I decided I should just go to the fabric store and do what I'd come to do in the first place. Pleasantly, my route took me right past another thrift store that I recognized, so I stopped. I added two shirts for Charles to my meager stash.

On to the fabric.

I don't know if the manager of the store was just trying to lure people in their doors for nothing or if all the good stuff had been snatched up by the bolt the previous two days of the sale or what but ladies, there was no fabric on sale that I wanted. None. Nada. Out of sheer revenge on a day gone haywire, I bought some knit pieces that I liked at full price but I couldn't believe it!

It was time to have lunch and regroup, so I did just that over a juicy, yummy Sub. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just abandon the rest of my plans and go drop in on my sister who works at a newer thrift store 40 minutes away. In spite of living so close to each other, we rarely spend time together and I'd never managed to check out the store where she works. I'm not good with figuring out what time I need to be where in order to make my appointments, so I texted Chris for his input. When my sandwich had disappeared and no reply had come back, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it.

Driving along over this road and that road and then another, I figured it might be just my luck to get there and discover my sister wasn't even working that day but I'd come to far to stop now.

Long story short?

She was there. I had the fun of walking in and surprising her. I got to see what she does and tour the part of a thrift store behind the 'Employees Only' doors. I got to discover how they sort and organize and keep everything running smoothly; it's quite impressive! And I got to chat with her and even buy a few things. I ended up picking up my school children nearly 10 minutes late but all in all, the day that didn't go as I envisioned didn't do some other things either.

I didn't feel blue and discouraged; I didn't feel like the day had been totally wasted; I didn't feel certain I had made the wrong decision and should have stayed home. And, perhaps best of all, I didn't have to be picked up personally.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Normal Days And Saying Nothing

I probably shouldn't even mention the silence in this corner lately -- as if I believe myself to be so important that people are breathlessly waiting for me to say something. Somehow there hasn't seemed to be anything to say, so I haven't said it; that's about the only reason I can give.

To be honest, there doesn't really seem to be anything to say this morning, either, but I'm saying it anyway.

In Ohio, the battle between Winter and Spring continues to rage fiercely. One day we revel in short sleeves and the urge to dig in the dirt; the next, we are forced to admire the magic of a snow covered landscape. The grey, dreary days always wear on my mood but every sunshiny day holds the promise of warmth and new growth and Spring. I cling to those glimmers of hope and Jasmine's row of paper cups hold a promise all their own.

Life has been very normal here at The House On The Hill. We eat and sleep and go to work and school. We consume food and create dirty laundry and a messy house with alarming regularity. Except, if you think about it, it's actually not alarming but comforting. Normal means we're all here; healthy, comfortable and reasonably happy.

Normal means there are little girls creating imaginary houses and accessories out of upside down bar stools.

Normal means a little boy making up stories about 'Honey Bear' and strewing toys all over the floor. It also means shared laughter over the funny things this little boy says. Last night before bed Chris said, "I volunteer Charles Eicher to pick up all these toys. Everyone voting for Charles, raise your hand." Everyone quickly raised their hand. But when Chris told Charles to get busy he piped up, "But I didn't raise my hand!"

Looking back through recent pictures I realize that there have been extraordinary days too. Little things that switch up the 'normal' and keep life interesting and exciting.

One day, grades 1-4 went ice skating. Along with several other moms, I went along for the day. I tied skates and encouraged the wobbling ones, letting them hang onto my hand and even, once, landed hard on the ice when the wobbler lost their footing. I had some sore muscles the next day but it was fun anyway.

Speaking of school, Jennifer and Lillian are enjoying special days during the month of March. The latest one was Hat Day and different headgear seemed to put a sparkle in their eyes. Maybe I should try it myself someday?

Sometimes a cup of hot tea is just the thing to cheer up a cold, dreary day. It's even better to share a cup with a couple of friends, which is just what I enjoyed doing yesterday. I need to do that more often.

I continue to dabble in my new hobby. When I get started, it's hard to stop.

One day, the nice man at this house did his usual good deed of stopping at Aldi after work to pick up whatever it is that I'm desperately needing and grabbed some flowers while he was at it. They are still brightening my days.

That about covers it for normal days and saying nothing.........

Monday, February 26, 2018

Confessions From Vacation

Our family has been away the past week; away in another world. A world of sunshine and blue skies and no cares but our own. A world of sleep and relaxing and doing nothing...or something...just as we chose. We took our own selfishness and human flaws along with us, to be sure, as you will see in this piece written early one morning last week.......


In the semi-darkness, my eyes take in the clutter of clothes and suitcases and abandoned footwear. The flat surfaces are strewn with discarded cups and empty bags. The trash can overflows with the rubble of seven people. My order loving heart chafes at the messy chaos; there's too many people in one room and this introvert soul is reaching a breaking point. Slipping down onto the ugly, striped carpet in the pale glow of early morning, I clutch at a sliver of solitude as one person moans in their sleep and another snores blissfully on - that same snore that so annoyed a third at 2:00 this morning.

It's a dream vacation, taking everyone to Florida during school's week of winter break. When their dad broke the news to them of the plan, the children all looked at me in wonderment to see if he was serious. But halfway in, I confess, I'm not feeling very dreamy and the guilt of that fact threatens to overpower any fun I am having. I had desperately wanted our own space, see - a house, an Airbnb, something. But the plan was short notice and it was hard to beat other prices and I had sweetly said I would be ok with whatever he decided. After all, he didn't have to take us anywhere!

But I wasn't really ok with whatever.

Messiness and chaos and no personal space just get to me, that's all. How can it be a vacation when I'm constantly smashed into the same space with six others, unable to even enjoy a private conversation with my own husband? At every turn my stubborn mind aches to point out the benefits of what I so desperately thought was better. I don't want to be like that but how can I not when I feel like I'm suffocating?

I see a slice of blue sky through the parted curtain - the part carefully made at night so the room isn't too dark for the little people - and I remember yesterday and the blue, blue sky and the puffy white clouds and a little boy reveling in the wonder of the ocean's waves. It was sheer joy just to watch him. Into the waves and then out; laying down to let the water rush over him; head up in surprise when the water nearly got his face, and all the while giggling and bouncing with delight.

 Then their was the drama queen who was shivering with cold and tearfully disappointed at the cold water and the strength of the crashing waves. Sitting in a dejected huddle under her towel, on the beautiful, sandy beach, she could think of nothing to do and her mind was fixed on one thought - the pool back at the motel. The mother in me wanted to shake her. Indeed, the lecture I delivered was rather much like a hard shake that might rattle the teeth.

Laying, now, on the hard floor as the occupants in the room slept on, I wondered if it was me, instead, who deserved the lecture and a good, hard shake. Was I not quite a lot like the drama queen myself, unable to recognize extravagant beauty and privilege in the face of my own selfish little heart?

"Really, woman. Do you know how blessed you are? Look at your children sleeping peacefully - one, two, three, four, five. Once, they were tucked away safely under your heart; once they were tiny, dependant on you for life; once they needed you for everything. Look at them now, stretching tall and strong, yet still content to all be huddled together in one room. This week is an incredible gift. It won't be long till they're all independent, finding their own way in the world and making their own plans. The time left to make these close knit memories is fast passing by; don't waste it. Do you hear me? Whatever you do, Do Not Waste It."

Thoroughly chastised, I slip back into the cozy bed. The room is still silent, I've had my sliver of space. It's a beautiful day and I'm thankful, so thankful, to be spending it in close proximity with these special people.            


That early morning lecture on the floor was well taken. I must say, we had a most amazing week together. And now, we are home. I'm finding the drama queen tendencies crop up just as easily in this world. It's cold and drab and brown here, with piles of laundry and Real Life staring me in the face first thing this morning. But there's just as much extravagant privilege here, if I'll open my eyes. Just as many special moments to not miss; just as little fleeting time. I find myself needing the same lecture here as anywhere else, "Don't waste it. Do you hear me? Whatever you do, Do Not Waste It."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Never-Ending Opportunity

"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him."
 2 Chronicles 16:9

I remember the day Chris took me to look at the little piece of land he was considering buying. There were trees and brambles and briars; fallen logs and leaves and limbs. All of it was situated on one steep hill. We scrambled up through the woods, dodging thorns and branches. Chris was busily dreaming and scouting out the best spot to build; I was looking around at it all in bewilderment - "A house? Here?"

But we bought the land and the dreams began turning into reality. Then the lane went in. From that day forward, there was one nagging question in the back of my mind - "How am I going to get in and out of here in the wintertime?"

I've talked about this before - how I never had to drive in the snow before moving to Ohio, how I dread it and hate it and, in short, what a chicken I am. And now here I was going to be on this Hill, with no way in and out but a steep lane. Not only that, the steep lane comes out right in the middle of a fairly major hill on Pennyroyal, the road running past our house. Put simply, the whole situation is basically a chicken's worst nightmare.

We did bite the bullet and concrete the lane. Last summer, we also blacktopped the parking area by the house. Major, major improvements and without question a good investment; we would have been hauling in new gravel regularly.

So, here we are at The House On The Hill for a year. That lane has continued to be a thorn in the flesh. It's not just bad in the winter, see. Even in the summer you have to know how to maneuver the thing so as not to produce ominous scraping sounds from your vehicle. This can be quite alarming, especially to visitors who are generally a bit more concerned about their vehicles than some of the rest of us. It is completely possible to enter in and depart from said lane without the scraping sounds, but one must Know How. Like Eeyore playing Pooh sticks, there's a twitchy sort of way, if you know what I mean.

All in all, I have become somewhat used to this treacherous lane that elicits so many comments and wonderment from all who see it. I've joked that I will homeschool my kids in the winter months and I still cringe as I listen for the scraping sounds every time someone comes to visit. For the most part though, I've gotten used to it. I still dreaded winter but that's nothing new and I already know that worry isn't going to change anything. Besides, I've also discovered that God can actually handle wintertime pretty well, imagine that?

I thought maybe God would handle it by giving us a mild winter with very little snow. Well, He has pretty much turned that idea upside down. I wish I would have counted the number of times it has snowed since Christmas. Really, I think it might have been too many to count! It's not that we have had such a huge accumulation, like some people, but just enough to cover up the cleaned up roads - and lane - again and again and again.

It was early one morning during the first part of January when it came to me. I was standing in the kitchen, getting ready to start the morning routine of lunches and breakfast and school prep. The noise of the snowblower filtered in through the window; my husband was out there, again, clearing off the lane before heading to work. He'd bought that snowblower at our school auction and every time I heard it's hum, my heart melted into a puddle. Forget the roses and chocolates. Let me tell you, seeing my man out there in the early morning hours or late at night after a long day at work, faithfully cleaning off that lane in the freezing cold puts more stars in my eyes than any flowers ever could.

It was in that moment that I heard God whisper, "That lane is a never-ending opportunity for me to show myself strong on your behalf."

I stopped mid-stride in my morning bustle and stood there in awe. I'm not sure I can explain how sacred that moment was. You can't very well hate something with such great potential, can you? "A never-ending opportunity..." it almost gave me goosebumps. A lump came into my throat, as I stood there in my kitchen with tears in my eyes and my hands raised in worship, "Oh, dear God! Thank you for that lane; thank you for a never-ending opportunity!!"

I still groan when it snows, I still dread needing to get out there. But now it's a dread laced with anticipation - 'How is He going do it this time?' And you know what? He is so creative!

Some days He has the school board chairman cancel school (Bless the man). Some days He has my husband park the van at the bottom of the lane and gives me the courage to brave the road and backing the van back into its precarious spot. (You see those marks behind the van? That's where Isaac took a little run and slid all the way down to the van.)

Some days He has grandpa pick them up here instead of me taking them to grandpa's to catch a ride (he takes them to school Monday and Thursday). Many days He has the sun shine just enough so the lane is clear by 3:00 when it's time to go to school again. (Huge perk of concrete and blacktop; our lane is usually the first to be clear!)

He doesn't do it the same every time and it doesn't always look the way I imagine it will, but always, He shows Himself strong. It never ends.

I call that amazing.

Monday, February 12, 2018

For The Stingy Succulent-lover

 My oldest daughter, Jasmine, has fallen in love with succulents and the wonder of propegation. She has spent hours reading up on the tricks and methods of propegation for different types of succulents. I love to watch her experimenting and carefully babying her little plant babies. Today she is sharing her knowledge with us in a guest post!

I love springtime;
I love green plants.
I am crazy over succulents
and I'm Miss Conservationist
who delights in
saving her precious pennies.
This is how I grow
my succulent
collection with little cost
and great fun.

The leafless stem above
is the remains
of a leggy succulent.
works best when 
your plant has
leggy and unhealthy,
with leaves
spread far apart
as the plant
tries to get
the maximum amount
of light it can.
At this point,
You have two options.

#1. Allow your
plant to continue
growing in this manner
until all the leaves
wither and the succulent

#2. Start propogating!
To do this, start by
removing the
leaves from the stem
of the succulent, leaving only
a small rosette at the top.
When removing
the leaves from the succulent,
start with the bottom leaves
and work your way up to the top.
Wiggle each leaf gently
until you
feel a little snap.

Be sure to get a clean
pull, leaving 
no part of the leaf
attached to the stem.

The leaf nearest you
shows a clean pull. 
The one further
 away is broken on the edge
and will
not grow a new plant.

Last, cut off 
the rosette at the top with a pair of
sharp scissors.
Lay the leaves and rosette
on a saucer or a shallow tray.

Keep the saucer with the leaves
on a windowsill
that gets lots of indirect sunlight 
until they callous over.

Notice the difference between
the two leaves above.
The one closest to you has
calloused over
and has a bit of a protective
"scab" on it.
This scab will keep the
leaf from
absorbing too
much water, thus
preventing it from

This leaf is an example
of rotting.
It has turned a
yellowish brown
and is limp and 
It will die soon. 
So no watering until
the leaves
have scabbed over, you hear?

At this point,
lay your leaves on top of a
container of dry soil. 
As you can see in the picture 
below, the tips of the leaves will
really not be touching the soil at all.

And now, remember
that rosette
you snipped off the stem?
When it forms a "scab", 
simply place the stem into the ground
and it will grow roots and 
continue to grow.
Water it as you would
water a full grown

Now back to those leaves.
At this point, we
begin the W and W process -
watering and waiting.
This phase can be kinda tricky
because succulents don't 
need much moisture.
Water the leaves very rarely
before baby plants begin
to grow. I water mine
once a week  with a spray bottle.

When you see tiny roots and baby
plants beginning to grow,
give them a good soaking
whenever the soil is

The key here is to not over-water.
Overwatering is one of the
most common
reasons that succulents die.
 If you give them too much
water and they start to rot, 
there's basically nothing
you can do for them.
However, if your plant
isn't getting enough water, 
you can easily take
care of that!
ALWAYS err on the side of

After many hours and days
and weeks
and possibly even
months of waiting, 
your baby plants will be
ready for planting.
The ones in the picture
above aren't quite ready yet. 
I like to wait
until the original mother
leaf that was pulled off the stem
withers and dies.
Then simply remove the mother
leaf from your baby succulent,
( being careful
not to remove the roots)

your succulent
in well draining
succulent/cactus soil,
and continue
to water once a week,
or whenever
The soil is TOTALLY Dry.

It takes anywhere from
6 months
to one year for succulents
to reach a
"normal" size.
Make sure your babies
get lots of sunlight,
a good soaking
only when the soil is
dry, and lots
of patience.

This particular
succulent has been growing
for about 3 1/2
and it's still
itty bitty.
So don't worry if it
seems like
your plants just
aren't growing, it takes awhile.

Here's an example of a
"normal size"

Note that, although
this method of
propagation works for
most succulents,
it doesn't
for others. I've tried
blue chalk sticks
using this method with
a zero success rate.

These plants require
a cutting for 
propagation, so the point is,
 don't be afraid to experiment.
Maybe you'll find that you need
to use a different
watering method or
less sunlight than I do. 
Figure out what
works for you.
Have fun.
And whatever you do,

Have you tried propegating succulents? We'd love to hear your tips!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Curious George And The Little Boy With The Funny Hat

This is George.

George is a good little.......
well, not actually a monkey
but we can pretend.

George was once a little girl's
 pencil topper
 but then she gave him away
and now he lives with his friend,
The Little Boy With The Funny Hat.

George has many adventures
with the little boy with the funny hat.
The little boy likes to take him everywhere!

One day he went along to the post office

And the library

and McDonalds.

George likes to ride around
 in the little boy's coat pocket

 or to be carried, 
all snuggled up in his hand.

Sometimes he shares the
 little boy's cookies

Or sits beside 'Honey Bear'
and listens to stories
on the computer.

Sometimes he gets to help
play baby doll
and take rides in the back
of the old, pink stroller.

George is a very tiny
little monkey,
and hard to keep track of.
When he gets lost,
the little boy with the funny hat
is very sad.

"Where is George?"
He will cry.
And the whole family will go
on a George hunt.
Just when they are sure they have seen George for the last time,
he will turn up again 
in the most unlikely places!

In the seal of the washing machine --

What a scary experience 
that was for George!

Tucked under a blanket
where he spent a whole night
and a day before being discovered --

What a joyful shout 
went up that day!

In an abandoned heap
where he spent the night at the bottom of the steps --

What a lonely night 
that must have been!

And many other places 
too numerous to mention.

George is a good little monkey and always up for an adventure but at the end of the day his favorite place to be
 is snuggled up in the hand of
 The Little Boy With The Funny Hat
 as he drifts off to sleep.

The End.

This is a true story starring my youngest who is enamoured, at this point in life, by Curious George Stories and imaginary friends.
'George' has long since disappeared to who knows where. In his place, we now tote 'Honey Bear' who is much easier to keep track of. Someday, when 
The Little Boy With The Funny Hat
 is all grown up and the days of imaginary friends long past, I will pull out this story and show his children what a sweet little boy their daddy was.