Tuesday, January 3, 2023

A New Year

Happy New Year.... this third day in... 

End of the year / New Year posts are always hard for me to write. I always think I need the perfect words and the perfect way to say them. Somehow I can't quite just not write them either!

First things first: my 4 books a month goal is finished!!

December's books:

Top Left: The Other Half of Church.                        Fascinating ideas about Christian community and brain science, a lot of which was a bit over my head. 

Top Right: Do Let's Have Another Drink.               Another book to add to my list of 'Royal Family' books - all kinds of interesting stories and tidbits about The Queen Mother. 

Bottom left: The Queens Of Animation.                 Super interesting history about the world of Walt Disney Studios and the unsung heroes who worked behind the scenes. 

Bottom right: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.                                                         Inspiring story. I kept taking pictures of pages and sending them to Chris. 

I'm so glad I made my reading goal last year, and right proud of myself for actually keeping it! I don't think I'll make a new goal, but I hope I'll be inclined to keep reading in 2023. I still have a long list of book ideas that I kept adding to throughout the year. I think I will keep noticing book recommendations and wanting to check them off my list; we'll see. 

How can a year seem to have gone by so fast that one can hardly believe there were twelve whole months in it, and yet January 1, 2022 seems like so very, very long ago? Not sure how that works. 

Personal highlights from 2022 include...

Our trip to Florida over our school's winter break...

And Chris and my Anniversary trip in June.

There's been some big changes in our family in 2022 as well -- Isaac being gone for six weeks and then teaching school here this fall; Jasmine heading to Boston in August, to attend Sattler College for the school year. There is nothing quite like having your first child venture out into the world on their own! So many and conflicting emotions..... and this stage is only just beginning. I don't feel at all like I should be the mom in this story, but here I am!

I don't think there's a person alive who would claim to love change, and yet we are made to adapt to it. It's amazing how quickly we adjust to new schedules, new places, new people, new responsibilities, new ideas... It's actually pretty incredible the way God created us with the capacity to learn and grow and adapt! Our thoughts control so much of our life experience, including the way we respond to change. 

One of the biggest gifts of 2022 has been the huge step I took outside of my comfort zone when I joined a coaching program four months ago. I am forever grateful for all I have been learning through that experience. Contrary to what we tend to believe, it is worth it to invest in yourself!

And now, before this new year progresses any further, Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Bit of Nothing

It's a crisp, sunny, December morning. I have a sick child in my bed, sourdough bread dough rising, and piles of laundry to take care of. For the first time in a while, my week feels mostly empty, and I am not one bit sad about it! I think every single week in November had some Big Thing I was planning for or working on. December will have its share of busy, so I'm planning to enjoy this breather to the fullest. 

I wasn't planning to start the week off with a sick child, so we shall see how empty the week actually remains. 

November was a good month, in spite of all the things going. A few highlights were: being with most of my family for Thanksgiving day (and only needing to travel an hour and a half to do it!), hosting several different members of my family throughout the week of Thanksgiving (we were kind of a revolving motel and it was fun!) and -probably best of all- Isaac and Jennifer flying to Boston to be with Jasmine for several days and completely surprising her by Jennifer being along when she thought it was just going to be Isaac. 

I read/ listened to four books in November

Top left: Another one in the series that I've been listening to. 

Top right: Interesting story by Paul Stutzman about his hike of the Appalachian Trail

Bottom left: Another book to feed my intrigue with The Royal Family

Bottom right: A light, easy read about a young couple and the first hard years of their marriage

I have one, last month to complete my goal of reading four books a month in 2022!

 * * * * *

Take two. 

It's a dreary, grey, December day. I have a still sickly child napping in my bed, a clean load of laundry in the dryer and a sewing project scattered around on my dining room table. My week has gone from empty to possibly multiple days of going away and the few things I thought were on the agenda have all been re-arranged. Sounds about like normal life, right?

I have absolutely nothing of great importance to say and no pictures to show you of it either. Just a few random things....

Last week, in preparation for my Sunday school class, I listened the Chained to the Chariot sermon that I shared with you at the beginning of this year. It spoke to me just as loudly now as it did then. Maybe you would enjoy it again too?

Speaking of my intrigue with The Royal Family --

My daughter got to see the Prince and Princess of Wales while they were in Boston last week! Pretty sure it was worth standing out in the rain, perched on top of a trash can, to be able to tell her grandchildren someday, "I heard Prince William speak in person!"

I just saw that Daughter's of Promise is running a sale on their inventory of old magazines. I'm not a great fan of promoting myself, but I did write an article for their last issue. The theme was "Commitment", and I shared a bit of my story with foster care. If you're interested in their sale, you can find it here. Look under 'shop magazine issues'.

Last but not least. Wanna do something to make your significant other's day?

First, buy them a nice card. Then, get yourself a pen, a paper, and a stamp, and send them a good old fashioned letter in the mail. Doesn't matter how long it's been since they've seen that handwriting on an envelope in their mailbox, the sight of it will cause them to grin like a fool and may even bring a dampness to the eyes and butterflies to the heart. Or maybe that's just how it affected me. I think it does things to the heart of the writer as well. 

I think that's about enough random-ness. Maybe I'll go fold that load of laundry that's in the dryer and call it a day. 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A World Where There Are Octobers

I am not necessarily in the Anne of Green Gables quoting crowd when it comes to October -- you know the one, where you share her famous sentiment of being so glad you live in a world where there are Octobers. I will say though, October has been quite nice this year here in Guernsey County Ohio. Sadly, I didn't take nearly enough pictures of the beautiful leaves this year but you know how it is -- pictures don't do justice anyway!

I feel like October disappeared in a blink! I'm not sure where the days went or why they passed so quickly, but here we are in November. I did manage to keep my goal of reading/ listening to four books...

Top left: An old, L.M. Montgomery classic that I read years ago. 

Top Right: Listened to another of The Cottage Tales Of Beatrix Potter on Libby. Great series when you just want a book to read for pleasure. 

Bottom left: Amazing story of life after attempted suicide. 

Bottom right: An interesting story from 9/11, when all the planes were ordered to land and flying was restricted. 

What else did I do the past 31 days? Let me see.... looking back through my planner I see a lot of "laundry" on my to do lists. Also a lot of "study for lady's SS class". I see that I...

- sewed a dress for my mother-in-law

- canned some pumpkins

- listened to memory verses at school

- went out to eat for a friend's birthday

- relished texts and conversations with my daughter in Boston

The unique sights in the city...

- took my girl's thrift store shopping when they had off of school for a day

- baked and then baked some more for the school auction

- snuggled Chris's new nephew

- and made his three year old niece an "Elsa cake" for her birthday

- deep cleaned my tiny laundry room that collects allllll the things

- started cleaning out kitchen cupboards and never finished

- re-did a school bulletin board for my son's classroom

- met a friend for breakfast

- drove the road between here and church/ school many, many times! That included several foggy morning drives, which always makes me think of Arkansas and my growing up years. We often had heavy fog - the kind where we couldn't see buildings across the road for a whole day, or maybe even several days. I tried to capture some pictures but dirty van windows and limited cell phone cameras don't produce anything real spectacular. 

And now, here we are in November, and the sun is streaming in through my windows (that should be washed) and there is a clean pile of bed sheets staring at me (that should be put back on beds) and my microwave beeping to remind me that my meat is thawed (that should be fried for tonight's chili soup) and the clock is ticking on toward school pick up time (when I will need to go in and talk to the 5th and 6th grade teacher about subbing tomorrow afternoon and pick up the remnants of the food I supplied for Isaac's classroom's party yesterday afternoon). 

What do you do at home by yourself every day, you ask? Well, let's just say it's not a boring life. If all else fails, there's always "laundry" and "study for lady's SS class" on my list...

Happy November!

  * * * *
PS. I must be perfectly honest and add that, while I've listed a lot of things I did in the past 31 days, I do a lot of 'nothing' around here too. I'm grateful for that privilege. It's a gift that my brain does not do well without. 

Thursday, October 6, 2022

September Books, A Recipe, & Other Tidbits

I'm making myself sit down and write this post before I gather my things and trek off to town. I have no burning urge to write, but it's a new month, and I should at least tell you about the books I read in September. I can hardly believe this year, with the goal to read four books a month, has only three more months in it!! How?

1. Top left: Enthralling, inspiring, heart-twisting read. 

2. Top right: Interesting in a "I never thought of it like that" kind of way. 

3: Bottom left: Oof. One of those books I could turn right around and listen to again and learn just as much as I did the first time. 

4. Bottom right: Another one of the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. 

I also listened to Excellent Women and The Vanderbeekers and the Secret Garden. I'm finding that with school back in session, listening to books is my go to. I ended up with a lot of audio books coming in that I had holds on, so I listened to more!


Our family has always eaten a fair amount of rice, and I generally felt like I could produce a decent kettle with the preparation method I grew up using. Occasionally it wouldn't turn out right though, and I would be frustrated with not being able to figure out what I had done wrong? Sometime this summer, when my stove was occupied with canners and I wanted rice for supper, I googled 'recipes for making rice in the oven'. I'm not sure that I'll ever make rice on the stove top again! Every person in my family declares that it tastes better, and it turns out perfectly fluffy every single time.

Easy Oven Baked Rice:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.                          2) Place 2 C rice and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a 9x13 pan. 
3) In a saucepan, bring 3 1/2 C water and 3 T butter to a boil.  
4) Pour boiling water over rice in pan.          5) Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  
6) Remove from oven. 
7) Allow to rest 5-10 min.    
8) Fluff with fork and enjoy!

(Notes: For Sunday lunch, when I wanted chicken in the oven while we were at church, I made the rice in the morning, left it covered, and wrapped it in a heavy towel. Worked great. Also, for 1 C rice use 1 3/4 C water, 2 T butter and 1 tsp salt.)

Other September tidbits.....

Lillian had a birthday and made herself a tiny, layered, pumpkin cake...

Sometimes we feel very watched...

Took a little day trip to meet up with my sister from Indiana. The only two pictures I have to show for it are the one above (seen along my way) and the one below (bought at a thrift store we went to). Those were not necessarily the highlights of the day!

Our church spent last weekend together
 at a retreat center.

Favorite memory made was connecting with other puzzle lovers around this table...

I am not the biggest fan of Fall
but the weather this week has been absolutely gorgeous!

In closing, a favorite quote from Braving The Wilderness (one I will be reminding myself of over and over): 

"Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don't belong."

Friday, September 2, 2022

August In Pictures

Contrary to the sound of my last post, I have not been spending all my days with tears in my eyes and a tissue box close at hand. As usual with me, the dreading of change is often worse than change itself. The last couple of weeks have had their share of adjustments and change, but they have also been good ones. Re-telling August strictly through pictures, it appears that the month wasn't all that bad either...

We got two kittens from our former foster girl and her family. They have provided so much entertainment this month! I love cats. 

We spent a lovely day at the lake. It's been ages since I took all five! Have to say, it was quite a bit easier than it used to be, but just as good for the soul. 

I tried a couple of new recipes...

Had a sleepover one night...

Discovered at supper time one evening that our water wasn't working.
 Between kind neighbors (who brought us water and watermelon and parts for the pump) and a kind church friend (who came over and worked in the dark) the problem was fixed before bed time!

Just Jasmine, painting a picture for a friend instead of working on packing, as one does...

We went on a family bike ride one evening. The short story is that it was a gorgeous evening and the trail and family time were idyllic. The longer version is that by the time we arrived at the bike trail and got everyone situated and on bikes, I was wondering why I ever thought it would be a fun thing to do? In spite of the hiccups, it was an absolutely lovely and fun evening. 

The 'moral of the lesson'? Don't let the hiccups stop you from doing things. 

I grew up in a family of school teachers, and helping Isaac with bulletin boards, etc has been nostalgic and fun. 

(I title this picture: "When you could literally spend two minutes writing the jobs out, but instead you spend an hour drawing pictures to illustrate them." What can I say? Some of us can't help ourselves.)

Jasmine left for Sattler College

Not pictured - me, in the back seat of the car in the Walmart parking lot, while my girls film for their YouTube video. You can watch it here. Their little hobby has turned out to be a very effective tool for forcing them to get along. The process hasn't always been fun, but I love watching their creativity and seeing the ways they have learned to navigate their differences.

School started!

Fall is coming... Pulling out this one, ginormous, cucumber plant!

The mom and fawn that visit our
 yard most mornings...

And last, but not least -- 
my four books in August:

1. Top left - the second book in
The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter
great books to read just for fun
2. Top right - A book that I waded through, and felt like I was in over my head 
most of the time
3. Bottom left - Listened on Libby & enjoyed
4. Bottom right - The brand new book about the Haiti kidnapping! Fantastic writing, as usual, by Katrina Hoover Lee

And now... Hello September!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Dear Mom

How I've wished I could talk to you these past few months, mom! 

Back in June, when my oldest daughter trekked off to Boston for Sattler College's High-school Week, I was happy to let her go. I must confess, I was also secretly happy that she already had the perfect job secured here at home, and multiple places she wanted to go in the next year. That, coupled with my oldest agreeing to teach at our church school, ensured me another year with all five at home. When she called at the end of the week, and informed her dad that she'd really like to return to Boston in the fall of this year, that's when I started thinking of you, mom. 

Your oldest went off to teach school out of state when she was 19 -- how did that feel, mom? Did you want to tell her to wait a year; that she had lots of time to do these things? Did you want to caution her against impulsiveness? Did you mourn the loss of one more year with everyone home? As your youngest, at three, I don't remember anything about how you felt, mom. But I can imagine!

How did you handle the feelings, mom? From the initial jolt of 'No, this can't be happening' to 'It is happening, and I want to be supportive', how did you navigate? Mothering adults is a whole new playing field, and I've spent this whole summer floundering, and thinking of you over and over, mom. 

When I watched my 20 year old drive off to Pennsylvania for five weeks of training in preparation to teach school; nerves on high alert, dreading the unknown. When I took his phone calls, and tried to troubleshoot an unfamiliar washing machine and listened to long, excited explanations of the books he was reading. 

When I sent my 18 year old off on an airplane for a week in Boston; eyes bright, and excitement high. When I absorbed the news that the next school year was not going to look like I had pictured, and I wrestled with fear and uncertainty and sadness.

When our summer became consumed with flurries of red tape and preparation, and I mourned the loss of a "normal" summer vacation. When it became apparent that, in many ways, children leave the nest before they're ever actually gone. When I caught my heart distancing itself, so as not to feel the pain. 

When I listened to my son, bubbling over with school ideas, and heading off to the classroom day after day to prepare. When I felt, all in the same moment, the warm fuzzies of pride and the gripping hand of anxiety -- "He's so creative; I love to see him shine!" "But these people all know him too well; what if his students don't like him at all?"

You watched your children leave/ begin new adventures many, many times over the course of their adulthood, how did you do it, mom? 

Boston Bound!

I remember some of how you did it. I remember you cutting out letters for bulletin boards, and fixing finicky sewing projects. I remember you helping to pack suitcases, and slipping in little extras. I remember you ironing the shirts, and buying all the things, and helping with last minute details for school activities. I remember you being there, and doing all the things; what I don't remember, mom, is how you felt. 

Did your heart twist at the changes? Did you resent, even just a little bit, all the time you poured into helping us get all our ducks in a row? Did you sometimes want to remind us that you had a life too? Did you sometimes want to say "If you're going to leave, let's get it over with?" Did you sometimes wish we'd be around a little more to pitch in with all the ducks you needed to keep in a row? Did you sometimes feel so much love, and pride in what your children were pursuing and becoming, that you wondered how you could ever feel anything but gratitude and humility? Did your eyes spill tears at the oddest times and stay dry as could be at others?

I can't ask you any of these questions, mom. But the truth is, I have a sneaking suspicion you wouldn't really have many answers anyway. The fact is, it would probably be kind of like when young moms ask me about pregnancy and tiny babies -- so much of the drama of those times has faded in my memory. None of the details seem nearly as exacerbating now, as they did in the moment. I'm guessing someday the events of this summer will seem much the same. 

So, while I've thought of you often these past months, mom, and I've wished I could ask you a myriad of questions, I guess maybe the things I remember are more important than the things that I don't, and your example is all the answers I really need. 

Love, Bethany

Back to School...
Charles - 4th grade
Lillian - 8th grade
Jennifer - Freshman
Isaac - 7th & 8th grade Teacher

And Jasmine, 
And her new home in Boston, 
Where she will be attending 
Sattler College for their 
One Year Certificate in Biblical Studies 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Farewell July

 Dear July, 

I would say that I am sad to see you go, but that would not be entirely true. I am actually quite happy to give your ridiculously topsy turvy self a shove out the door and proclaim 'good riddance'!

I am sad that you didn't deliver the things July should be made of -- lake days, road trips, picnics, bike rides, library trips... you really failed to deliver, and now you're gone and there's no going back. 

Instead, you delivered fevers and headaches and back to back days of laying on beds and recliners and couches. You delivered a rash and two weeks of antibiotics for Lyme. 

You delivered exhaustion and naps and half hearted enthusiasm to give to girls going to camp.

And grudging endurance for entertaining the lonely only child left at home who was bored out of his mind. 

You delivered a toothache, and carefully eating on one side of the mouth and turning down yummy, crunchy things like the abundant cucumbers from plants gone wild. 

And then, you delivered a tooth extraction and barely eating at all. 

So you see, my dear July, for all of these reasons, I am not at all sad to see you go! 

For a while, I thought you would even rob me of the joy of reading my four books in a month. One cannot read books when one is feverish and head-achy, nor even when one is exhausted and constantly napping. But, I did indeed reach my goal. (Even though I started an audio book and gave it up and started a long awaited, highly praised, self-help book and became so annoyed with my lack of ability to concentrate and threw in the towel on that one as well. For this reason, my list this month includes such trivialities as Mr Poppers Penguins on Libby but it counts, yes it does!)

I listened to Angela's Ashes [a little bit of an odd book, in my opinion. And, to be honest,  one that I finished mostly because I was trying to meet my goal.]

I read The Pie Lady. [Easy to read, as each chapter is a separate, little story]

I listened to Mr Poppers Penguins [my nine year old had read it recently and loved it, so I listened to it with him while I laid around on couches and recliners]

I read The Tale of Hill Top Farm [and fell in love with the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter]

So you see, my dear July, while you didn't deliver the things I would have wished for, you also didn't rob me of everything. I met my book reading goal, I did the laundry (mostly), I fed my people (with the help of the kind souls that live with me) and I held down all the furniture quite nicely. I also welcomed all my children back home, which pleased some of us even more greatly than others. 

I did other things too, of course. But it's easier to look around and see all the things that didn't happen and didn't get done. 

Today, on this first day of August, I am blessed to be feeling quite like my normal self again.... No more fevers, no more toothaches, no more barely eating. If my enthusiasm for the new month is somewhat squelched by looking at the calendar and seeing things like Canning That Still Needs Done, and School Begins, and Big Life Changes Ahead, then it is probably a good time to remind myself that life can be enjoyed even in the midst of it not delivering all the things one wishes that it might. 

In the end, July -- you could have been better, but you could have been so much worse. 

The End