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Archive for the ‘Life Around Here’ Category

1. I had this plan to set up a 7 Quick Takes Friday draft post every week, probably starting on Saturday, into which I would pile links and short observations. That way, I could just pick the seven best ones come Friday, and wouldn’t that be sweet? I still think it’s a good plan. But nothing even remotely like that has happened this week. Sigh.

What I’ve done instead is redo every ebook cover on every book over which I have the control of the cover and content. I also pulled a couple of the really short children’s books, to rewrite. And I edited a new novel, that should be out soon. And mowed the lawn, and watered the lawn, and chased kids around. It’s been a busy week.

2. For a while, we had a cow that routinely jumped over the neighbor’s fence and ate in our front pasture. Our front pasture is new, and not fenced yet, which made it handy for the cow. When he felt like it, he just hopped back in with the other cows, so I stopped worrying about him.

I haven’t seen him in days. I’m a bit afraid of asking the neighbors how they solved that problem. He was a bit young yet to take to the slaughterhouse, but sometimes it’s better to cut your losses if you have a cow that will not stay home. I think I won’t ask.

3. I usually take a five year old grandniece with me to a couple of weekly ‘Bible studies’ at assisted living centers. I put ‘Bible studies’ in quotes, because it’s not quite the right designation. It’s more like a short rendezvous of Christians in the facility, with a couple or three of us outsiders leading singing, reading a short Bible passage, leading corporate prayer, and leading singing again, for a total of a half hour at each place. (No, I can’t sing. Yes, they forgive me for that.) This week, the five year old was having a very busy day, with her first day of pre-kindergarten, plus birthday celebrations, so I took her three-year-old sister. She did really, really well at being my helper in handing out songbooks, and collecting songbooks, and she sang along nicely as well as she could, and she tried really, really hard to sit still the rest of the time. That’s not to say she sat still. She was, however, praised by numerous people for being such a cheerful, detail-oriented helper. That was fun.

Please, if you have kids under your wing, consider getting involved in visits to assisted living centers or nursing homes. I hate age ghettos, and those set up for old people are some of the most heartbreaking, because most of the people there dreadfully miss being around children. Some don’t, of course, but most do. You should see them light up when they’ve got a child to chat with. It’s also been fun watching the kids learn to deal with old people with various disabilities. Kids are naturals at adapting to stuff like that, in my experience, and I doubt it hurts them any to see people loving people who may not be able to do much.

4. Here’s some perspective from an immigrant who grew up where there was a national curriculum: A Tale of a Common Core. (hat tip: The Common Room)

5. Speaking of national education programs that don’t like to have people deviate from the state indoctrination project, this is scary. I can’t say it makes me want to visit Germany any time soon, either.

6. On a more cheerful note, I discovered a wonderful little book that would be good for read-aloud, or bedtime stories. I got the Kindle edition while it was on sale: In Grandma’s Attic. As of post time, it’s still on sale, at 99 cents.

7. Back to a less cheerful note, another book I’d recommend is Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. I don’t believe history ever repeats itself, per se, but it sure does rhyme frequently, and all too much of what Eastern Europe went through as it fell into totalitarian ruthlessness is all too similar to trends today. Not encouraging, that. But forewarned is forearmed, if you’ve got the stomach for it. It’s not as brutal a read as The Gulag Archipelago. But it’s scary enough, and I doubt our schools are likely to provide the info. On the contrary, they seem to be in a ‘oh, communism would be wonderful if only we ran it’ propaganda mode. Again. Or do I mean still? On the upside, the Iron Curtain didn’t stay up the way the central planners wanted it to, now did it?

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, please visit Conversion Diary.

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1. I wonder how many people who die in fires these days are found near a smoke detector, with a ladder in one dead hand, and a battery in the other? Surely I’m not the only person who is, by now, trained to respond in Pavlovian fashion to beeps and screeches not with a run for the exits with the idea of escaping a still-young fire, but with an obsession with finding a fresh battery and some way of getting it into the beast as soon as possible, before I am driven to madness by the brain-ripping sound?

2. Have you heard? The Russians have been teaching Russian Orthodox chaplains to parachute, and have devised chapels that can be transported to troops along with the airdropped chaplains. Seriously. See Russian army introduces the flying Orthodox church-in-a-box. (Via Mere Comments.)

I can remember when Russia was death to Christians, per government policy; while the United States was the freest place in the world for the faithful. How things change. And how quickly. Yinga.

And yes, I did notice that the news comes to us via an architectural and design blog.

3. Cubans have reportedly been getting around government control of other media by distributing information hand to hand on thumb drives. So of course they’d be excited to hear that someone has been working on developing a flash drive on ordinary paper.

4. The two-year-old in the family has been obsessessed with switches and buttons for as long as I can remember. Until recently, she has pretty much confined herself to nearly wearing out the light switches, but recently she has become enamored of trying out nearly every button and switch that falls within her sight. So far, the older members of the family have been able to prevent out and out calamity, but she did manage to provide her grandparents with a private power outage that went on and on, until someone thought to check the circuit breakers. Yes, indeedy, she has discovered that there are switches there, too.

5. Shameless self promotion: I’m doing a book giveaway at Goodreads, for Why We Raise Belgian Horses. I know most of the giveaways are for new releases, or for pre-release copies. But they allow giveaways of older books. This was my first novel. Feel free to enter. The more the merrier.

6. Speaking of pre-release books, Eric Metaxas has a book coming out the end of this month that celebrates seven great men. In an age when many amongst us have been raised more or less without real heroes, or whose heroes were scrubbed of their faith in the history books (my generation had this problem, in spades), it’s nice to see Christian men held up as inspiration.

7. Speaking of heroes, I am delighted to find that many younger adults are showing both more sense and more backbone than some of their immediate ancestors. For example, look who’s helping lead the fight to defend – and restore – marriage to its proper definition and level of commitment. Having felt the damage from easy divorce and feminist experiments, they know firsthand what the ‘it’s-all-about-doing-what-feels-right-to-you’ mindset has done. And they want better. Good for them.

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, pop on over to Conversion Diary.

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1. Tell me I’m not the only person chasing preschoolers around who is seriously considering locking up the soap dispensers and not letting any girl under the age of six have access without a grown-up in attendance. Two girls I babysit love to wash dishes, windows, doors, toys, faces, hands, mirrors, what have you, and have a tendency to use up all the dish soap and hand soap they can get their hands on, most of it for uses other than keeping germs at bay. I don’t want to discourage their domestic streak, and I certainly want them to keep their hands clean, but they’re in danger of busting the budget, and of making it impossible to keep soap in stock for people who want to wash hands. On the upside, if I need a breather, all I need to do is let them have a sink and some soap, and they will usually wash away for unspeakable lengths of time, happy as larks.

2. I’m currently reading Amazing Grace on my Kindle. It’s currently $2.99. It’s a biography of William Wilberforce. If you don’t know who that is, you might want to remedy that shortcoming in your education.

3. We’ve been having winter trading off with pseudo-spring lately, sometimes back and forth in the same day. That’s usual for February around here: we get a taste of spring, and then get hammered with snow, ice, and frost. I like to think it builds character. Or, at least, that it could build character.

4. I’ve been busy for weeks now helping an older gentlemen get his aviation memoirs ready to publish. We’re getting close. He’s flown back country mountains for more than 50 years, much of it as a charter pilot, and I’m enjoying working on the book, even though I’m not a flyer, or even interested in flying. I’m enjoying the adventures, and also the personality of the man. When one passenger refused to behave, the author just landed at a handy airport, hauled the man off the plane, and took off again without him. I can appreciate that sort of pilot. Oh, my, yes. The book’s title is Adventures of an Idaho Mountain Pilot. Coming soon to a bookseller near you.

5. One of my favorite old ladies died this week. I’d see her nearly every week, at a Bible study I help with at the assisted living facility where she lived. She was already frail and wheelchair bound, and often a bit unsure what was going on, when I met her, but she was unfailingly gracious and courteous, and concerned for others above herself. She’s been a mighty inspiration to me. Last week, she was too sick to come to the study, mostly from some small strokes she’d had, so we popped by her room to say hello and wish her a happy 99th birthday before we left. As usual, she was sweet and kind and sent us out the door with a God Bless You, even though she was struggling from damage from the strokes. Amazing.

6. Speaking of Bible study, have you ever noticed what’s in the Revelation 21 list of who will be kept out of heaven? “…And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death…”

I don’t know why, but when I read that for this week’s study, cowardly jumped out at me like I hadn’t seen it before. I don’t know why it surprised me. After all, how many times does God command us ‘Do not be afraid’? But, still, it jumped right off the page at me.

7. I finally slogged my way through G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. The man could make me half crazy, tossing in some of the best quotable quotes in the English language, and some of the most brilliant observations in print, side by jumble with passages I find questionable, or even counterproductive. To his credit, the man almost always forces me to think, and usually sends me off on a round of study. But he exasperates me, too. Should I dive for cover now – prudently, not cowardly, of course? (This neighborhood of Bloggityville, if you don’t know, is thick with nearly rabid Chesterton fans. It just is.) As a conversion story, it’s a great read. As a convincing presentation of orthodoxy, I find too much fairy land in it. If it gets you headed toward Christianity, all well and good. God works in mysterious ways. But, all the same, I’m glad I didn’t read it until after my own conversion.

Speaking of conversion stories, why not pop over to Conversion Diary, host blog for 7 Quick Takes Friday?

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1. First off, I’d like to say that I’m amazed there is a 7 Quick Takes Friday round up this week. The usual hostess is in the hospital. But, she asked a friend to host it on her blog, and away we go. If I haven’t mentioned it lately, I am in awe – awe – of these mommybloggers.

2. I spent much of the holiday season, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, ill in ways that suggested quarantine would be only civilized. So I missed a lot of gatherings. Considering that large gatherings aren’t my favorite thing in the world, this was not altogether a disaster. I did miss having more time with visiting relatives, most of whom I barely know.

3. On those days I wasn’t a walking germ factory, one young visiting relative, age three, was kind enough to find ways that I could play with him even in my weakened state. Our joint favorite was where I stood in one place with my feet apart, and let him drive a remote control car between my feet. Or around my feet. Or into my feet. Did I mention that he’s three? And a boy?

4. The girls next door got a play kitchen for Christmas. And a play barbecue grill. The kitchen comes complete with a phone receiver hanging on the wall. The two year old loves to pick up the phone and say “Hi. Love ya. Bye. Bye.” and hang up. She is also very fond of toy horses right now. Incorporating her toys, I have caught her several times carefully grilling or studiously frying her toy horses. Thank goodness the toys only have play pretend heat.

5. Speaking of kitchens… Several friends have been campaigning on Facebook for butter, and against margarine. I’m with them there. The main reason I switched to margarine back in the day was because my husband and I didn’t use butter fast enough to get through a whole pound before some of it would sour. Then I discovered that butter freezes well. Such a deal. You can buy butter when it’s on sale, freeze it, and pull it out a stick at a time. Who knew? (I didn’t, that’s who.)

6. It’s cold outside, right at zero. I tried to take a walk yesterday, but between the slick, packed snow on the lane, and biting cold on my face, and the remains of a respiratory illness, I cut it short. It sure was a pretty day, though. We’ve had a lot of fog this winter. Clear days are such a treat.

7. Tomorrow is Shop Hobby Lobby Day. I’ve never been to a Hobby Lobby, but there’s one about an hour away, and it’s really close to a Chick-fil-A, which I’ve never been to, either. If weather and health permit, I’m going to vote for decency and freedom by doing a little business at businesses in the crosshairs of the Can’t Abide Morality crowd. I hope to meet some new friends, too. Here’s hoping for good roads and good health.

For more of this week’s 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, go here.

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1. Amazon had The Miracle of the White Stallions DVD on sale for $8.49, so I snagged a copy. The last time I looked, the sale price was still in effect, but you had to wait for restocking to get one. It’s as much about outwitting Nazis, and about a formerly free people chafing under oppression, as it is about the famous horses. It’s from 1963. Well worth a watch. It’s rated G, but I’d suggest parents watch it first, so they’re ready if a kid picks up on the talk of concentration camps and other war related stuff.

2. While I was at it, I ordered Justin Morgan Had A Horse, also from Disney’s good old days. It’s not on sale, sorry. But it is a fun, cheerful, film. Like The Miracle of the White Stallions, it’s based on a true story, in this case, the founding of the first American horse breed. I suspect this one has a wee bit more artistic license in it than the other one, but, then, it would probably have to. The other film was based on events in living memory, which were documented by the people involved. Both films were made before the PC crowd started cramping storylines. Good stories, both.

3. Once upon a few years ago, I noticed that many old cookbooks had ‘pancake’ recipes that were fancy ways of using leftovers. They mixed just all sorts of stuff in batter, and cooked away, sometimes as side dishes, sometimes as main dishes. Veggies, meat, fruit, whatever; sometimes spicy, sometimes bland. Since then, I’ve had great fun making up my own recipes. Perhaps recipes is the wrong word for those times I just use what’s on hand. A few weeks back, I had some cooked pumpkin I needed to use up, but didn’t feel like making a pie. So I put in all the ingredients except eggs for pumpkin pie filling – just as if I was making a pie – and mixed that with two batches of pancake batter (which provided all the eggs I figured I needed). Then I adjusted with more flour and water for better consistency, and a little extra oil so it wouldn’t stick, and wound up with pumpkin pie pancakes. They were pretty good, and kept well in the freezer. As to that last point, that pancakes freeze well is one of the things I like about them. Very handy, that.

4. I’m rereading The Pilgrim’s Progress, both parts. If you only read about Christian’s pilgrimage, you’ll have a lively read, but do try and get your hands on the second part, which follows the pilgrimage of his wife and children. I’m not sure but that it might be impossible to understand early American history if you haven’t read these books. Seriously. Bunyan and other nonconformist writers both reflect the age, and helped shape it.

5. I’m starting to feel bad that I didn’t send out physical Christmas cards this year. I’ve received a few, and it’s such a treat. Then I look at the price tag on the back, and factor in postage, and figure I have a good excuse. But, still, it’s such a treat to get them. Maybe next year…

6. Like quite a few other women in this part of the country, I don’t even own a pair of pants anymore. This would be neither here nor there, except that this time of year I hear silly objections about dresses being too cold to wear in winter. Obviously not, since women have been doing it for thousands of years. If you’re wearing a dress long enough to be modest, that helps. Layers help even more. For slips, it’s perfectly all right to make your own from flannel or something else sensible, or to wear a t-shirt dress as a slip. Yes, even with sleeves; there’s no reason an underdress can’t have sleeves. And, uhm, ladies, long underwear can be worn under dresses. Really. For that matter, dresses of a proper weight and sensible cut can be warmer than pants, just like mittens can be warmer than gloves.

7. Merry Christmas. (I’m a Christian. I can say that.)

(7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Conversion Diary. Why not pop on over and check out some other blogs?)

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I haven’t done this in a while – but here we go, joining with bloggers galore and our 7 Quick Takes Friday hostess, Jennifer Fulwiler, at Conversion Diary.

1. Speaking of Conversion Diary, did you see her recent post on The secret of a domestic monestary? Good stuff on pushing back on the world’s expectations, so you can concentrate on what matters more.

2. This post at The Common Room has what was to me a surprising way of teaching children honesty. After a bit of thought, it made all the sense in the world, but it just never occurred to me before. Nature walks. Yes, nature walks. Pop over for the explanation.

3. I usually clean the house a few days ahead of Thanksgiving, so the cleaning smells are gone before the food smells get turned loose, and I try to vacuum a couple of days ahead, so there aren’t vacuum tracks in the carpet. This year, I did get clutter stashed away or thrown out, and got vacuuming done the night before, but very little else got done. I had the sort of visitors who probably didn’t notice, and who wouldn’t have cared if they had noticed, but it still would have been nice to have pulled it off in the usual way. I got the floors waxed the Saturday after, and today I finally got the stains out of the carpet and the bathroom counter polished and the bathroom cabinets re-oiled. Better late than never, right?

4. One reason I didn’t get the cleaning done is that I was doing major slicing and dicing on the book-in-progress. One chapter was moved forward and merged with another. Also, I realized that a hike I had folks doing in one day would take two, so I had to add an overnight stop. That wasn’t all bad; it let me add a fun chapter that set things up better for what was to come, and let me toss in some local history. I’d inadvertently moved a river too far north, too. Oops. I cut all that misplaced river nonsense, and other stuff that was fun but not tied to the main plot, and did other edits, and sent a formatted copy off to be printed, so I can do the next edit run in trade paperback format. Plan A was to put the project aside until the proof got here, so I could read the book with fresher eyes. Plan A did not count on me realizing after the proof was shipped that somehow I’d forgotten about a different river that cuts through the country to the north. No, the book is not called The River Curse. I just tried to do too much from memory in the first draft. I’m old enough to know better. Maps are wonderful inventions, if you actually use them.

5. Taking a guess based on how wildly book rankings are changing hour by hour at Amazon, I’m predicting that a lot of people are getting books for Christmas this year. Certainly, a mind-boggling number of books are being bought, just through that one retailer. Wow, even.

6. Speaking of Christmas gifts…

. ThinkBeforeYouGive001

7. Last night after I went to bed, I got a phone call from the lady who runs the prayer chain at our church. Usually she sends emails, but this was late enough and dire enough – a congregation member had been airlifted to a hospital and wasn’t doing well – that she called. Recently, I missed two Sundays in a row at church, the first for illness, the second because I was visiting elsewhere, and the pastor showed up on my doorstep on Monday, to see for himself if there was any problem he needed to know about. Yes, Virginia, there are churches like that. Really.

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I know there are reasons for discouragement these days, but there are pockets of brightness.

For instance, last weekend I attended a bluegrass concert sponsored by a Family-Integrated Church. The event was held outdoors in a park. The audience sat on grassy slopes that wrapped around the stage. There were wholesome looking people as far as the eye could see. Kids danced and rolled down the slope, with an innocence and joy that spoke well of their upbringing. I didn’t see one little kid try to be sexy or crude, like so many kids do these days, in imitation of the pop culture. The church members were friendly to all comers. Even some teens who looked like they belonged to a gang came and hung around for a while, taking all this in. The band leader stopped at one point to encourage the men in the audience to be men of honor, of integrity, and courage. He said he had taught his sons to be men; that any one who was crazy enough to invade their home would have to go through three men to get to the girls. I think he was talking mostly to families that are arranged the same way. I’d bet most of them have seen the movie Courageous, and were inspired by it. The band also promoted adoption of orphans, and care of widows. It came out that some of the people in the audience had made independent films that had made it to semi-finals in a film festival, and you can bet these were films that built people up, or spurred them to help their neighbors, and not films that poisoned their viewers.

Not far away, a different group was having a party, complete with children swinging sticks at huge pinatas. Laughter filled the air. The kids were having a great time, but were also behaving well.

This week, I volunteered as a teacher’s aide at a rural charter school, for a release time Bible study class. The kids were cheerful, eager, bright, full of imagination, polite, and respectful. They are also better versed in the Bible than many adults I know. These were kids in kindergarten through second grade. The school has kids from K-8. Walking through the halls, I drank in the atmosphere of the place, the energy and poise and discipline of the kids. I left feeling better than when I got there.

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