Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Christmas List

The Christmas List: 

A Post of Possibilities

If you have children or you are like me with a gaggle of grands, this time of year can be a challenge. What do you possibly buy for the under thirteen crowd? 

I know a lot of people give money. That's okay, but if you are looking for a gift to wrap, I offer this post of possibilities. And you can use it for this year or next.

When my three daughters were young, we lived on a tight budget. That can be tough at Christmas. It is one reason I started shopping all year round.

Every year I bought each of them 

  • ·     some sort of art or craft, 
  • ·     something musical, 
  • ·     a book, 
  • ·     something to challenge their thinking skills, 
  • ·     something collectible.   


This is how it worked: If I was out and about in January and came upon a sale of a craft kits, I would sort through them, looking for something suitable for at least one of my girls. 

If an author came to my school, I would purchase an autographed copy of a book for each of them. As items went on sale in one of the categories, I would buy them, often wrap them, and put them away in my gift closet (an old chest of drawers I salvaged for such a purpose).


I think you get the idea. 


It worked for us. My kiddos always had a decent Christmas without the stress of last minute shopping nor the drain of funds in a single month. Of course, we often added other items to the gifts under the tree, but the stress wasn’t there.


When I started this practice, I had never heard of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In fact, he first presented the notion that people think and learn in different ways a few years after my third child was born and long after I had put this notion of shopping all year long by categories. 


Gardner’s early theory suggests there are “seven ways of knowing.” 


Linguistic-This one has to do with words. Reading, writing, riddles, word games, and so forth. ("Hmm...perhaps a book?")


Logical/mathematical-This one has to do with reasoning, logic, problem solving, and numbers. ("Maybe something to challenge their thinking skills?")


Musical-This one is about rhythm, song, listening and making music. ("Imagine that!")


Bodily/kinesthetic- This area applies to sports, dance, and movement.


Spatial-This one is where we find drawing and painting and puzzles. ("Did someone say something about arts and crafts?")


The last two in his early work were Interpersonal and Intrapersonal ways of knowing.

Unwittingly, we were hitting four of Gardner’s seven ways of knowing with Christmas gifts.


The girls didn’t always get what was “trendy,” but they always had a great Christmas. The gifts fed their hearts, minds, and souls. And apparently, helped them access those different ways of thinking and learning.


The Something Collectible? Well, that made them unique.


Allison collected porcelain dolls.

Danielle collected music boxes.

Kendall collected …everything. I eventually narrowed it down to “Cherished Teddies” and added to her collection each year. 


Allison still has a few of her treasured dolls. 

Danielle still has her music boxes.


Kendall held onto her Cherished Teddies for quite a while before making a killing on them at a yard sale. (Of course she the one who went into business.)


And if you are curious about the theory, you can find a pretty good article for parents and grandparents HERE: 


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Marriage 101: Agree to Disagree

 Marriage 101: Agree to Disagree


I was once part of a Bible study group where the leader shared a few basic “rules” before we started. He said there would be times we didn’t agree; there would be topics where our life experiences shaped our thinking in differing ways. 


Our first rule for the group was to bathe everything we said in love. The second was that we had to agree to disagree. 


Appreciating differing viewpoints is essential to any good relationship. 


I have always enjoyed the story of the five blind men and the elephant. As each touched a different part of the animal he would describe what it was. 


“A wall,” one of the men offered as his hand met with the broad side of the beast.


“No,” said another as the elephant’s trunk wound around the man. “It is a great snake.”


The one with a large ear flapping back and forth before him declared it a fan while the one holding the tail was sure it was a rope.


“You are all wrong,” said the one wrapping his arms around the animal’s leg. “It is a tree.”


It is all about “Perspective.”


Some people see rain. Others watch for a rainbow.

Is the cup half empty or half full?


Perspective. How you view life.


When Mike and I married, my mother gave us some outdoor furniture and a beautiful piece of outdoor art as a wedding gift. Once Mike put it up, we stood back and admired the piece. It reminds us of our backyard. 


“Of course it will look better once the house is painted,” Mike said.


On that we agree. Totally.


We have a plan to paint the outside of the house a much lighter color. A white or off-white is what we are considering. Right now it is dark. Not dark brown but more of a brownish orange-ish color.


Mike called it copper.

I called it gingerbread. 


Perspective. Based on life experience.


Mike worked for the electric company. 

Mike saw wires. 


I was a teacher.

I baked gingerbread with my students. We made “gingerbread houses” out of graham crackers and icing.


For a brief time, the color of the house became a point of serious discussion.


We held copper pennies to the surface. Copper is bright and shiny. Unless it is an old penny, of course. 


We held a gingersnap cookie against the wall. I insisted gingerbread, the soft cake, is not the light brown of gingersnaps. Nor is it dark brown.


We asked others.


Through it all, though, we respected the other person’s opinion. We decided we were both close...but each color was off a bit.


Then, one day while Mike was watching football and I was working on a book, it came to me. 


“The house is the color of butterscotch pudding!” I called out. Mike agreed.


(Of course he was watching football. But I’m calling it done. And waiting patiently for the new paint and painters to arrive.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

What's on Your Plate?

 What’s on Your Plate?


As I write this, I am preparing for Thanksgiving. It will be a small gathering. 

My family in Ohio and Wisconsin will be “doing their own thing” as they say. I was thinking about our large family gatherings. The cleaning and cooking, setting the table, and the long to-do list I live by the weeks prior to the holiday.  


I occurs to me I often talk about having “too much on my plate” when facing a new challenge or opportunity. 


As in…

“Would you like to join our women’s club? We have a wonderful time and serve the community.”

“I’m sorry. It sounds interesting, but I have     too much on my plate right now.”


I am not making excuses. I really do have a lot going on. 


I am, after all, a newlywed. Mike and I knew each other as teens, but we are still getting to know each other as adults. That’s a good thing. 


We bought a house that needs some updates and decided to live in it a bit to discover exactly what we want to do. Now we are working with a builder to discuss our next step.


My writing became muddled after Tom died. Sure I published a few short stories and I kept my blog going. Yet, in truth, I have been as unsettled as the characters in my books. 

Now I am writing again. I am working on a novel with a character I know and like. I’m in my writing zone, but it takes time and daily effort to write a book.


I’m sure we all have a lot to do. 

Some, like me, have a spouse, kids, even grandkids. 

Some of my readers have jobs they leave drive to daily.

All of us have work to do around the house.

Active in your church and community? Great.


I’ve often heard it said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

There is truth in that. 



It’s a “plate.” Not a “platter.”


So my advice….now that I’m old enough to give it…my advice is to take a close look at all you take on. 


Weigh your options before you dish up more than you can handle.


Decide what is the meat, your main course. Stay true to that.

Be sure to add some veggies and fruit. They keep you balanced.

Leave room for dessert. Everyone needs something fun in life.


Of course a small diversion here and there…something akin to a sprinkling of salt or pepper can add a little spice to life. As long as you don’t go too heavy on the spice and cover the main course so much you lose your taste for what’s important. 


Let me hear from you.


What is your “main dish” in life…or what is your favorite “dessert”? How do you find balance on your “plate”?


And when you do feel a little overwhelmed... Remember these words:


            “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, giving thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)


Wishing You All a Wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Eleventh Hour

 The Eleventh Hour


Eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of November. 


The eleventh hour… “the last possible moment before it’s too late.”


The eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.


That was when peace negotiations began in 1913, bringing World War I to an end. Armistice Day. A day to lay down arms. Armistice Day eventually became Veterans Day and is officially recognized each year on November 11. 


Don’t worry. This post isn’t a history lesson. It is a post about friendship and an appreciation of the freedom and peace we share because of others who were willing to take a stand.


The day before the official celebration recognizing Veterans Day, seven of us met at a small café near the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa, Florida. All of us grew up in the area. All but one of our group graduated from the same high school, Chamberlain. Our high school had established a plaque in the park with the names of those classmates we lost in Vietnam. Names we recognized. Boys we knew.


The Chiefs We Lost in Vietnam
(Thank you Sandee LaRocca for this shot.) 

We walked through the park, sharing stories of our fathers and grandfathers, of uncles and friends who were forever marked by the blood of fellow soldiers in nearly every modern war starting with World War II. 


The men study the names
of those we knew and lost

Mike’s dad, Hugh Tyler, dreamed of becoming a doctor. As the next to the youngest of ten orphaned children, his ambition may have seemed unattainable. But Hugh Tyler was not to be stopped. He worked hard all through school and entered the University of Florida in the pre-med program. 


Then came World War II.


Mike’s dad stepped up to serve his country. Because of his pre-med classes, he served as a medic. He was acting in that role on June 6, 1944. D-Day. The carnage was unimaginable, the beach red with blood. Advancing soldiers had to step over the shattered bodies of their friends and comrades, shot down in the water or on the now blood soaked shore. Hugh Tyler returned from the war forever changed. He decided on a career as a dentist instead of medicine. 


My Uncle Noah returned from Vietnam a highly decorated Marine in an unimaginable war. He was honored for his heroism, but what I remember most was the haunting effect Vietnam had on him. I remember him putting his boots up on the chest of drawers every night. He explained to me it was a habit. In Vietnam, it was a way to keep water and snakes out of his boots.  And I remember the nightmares... and my mother in the next room, praying him through them.


Veterans Park isn’t merely to honor those fallen soldiers, it is also recognizing and honoring those who pushed through the oceans and swamps, hiked the deserts, and climbed the rocks. Those who fought on land, in the air, and on water. 


Those men and women who sacrificed time with their families so we could spend time with ours.


The park is a peaceful place. There are no sounds of gunfire. No fear of attack. No rumblings of army tanks or strafing by airplanes. It is a place of reflection and honor and commitment. 


As I ponder the experience, it strikes me how we as a nation are becoming desensitized to the vulgarity of war and the carnage of lost battles. We tend to cast off the painful memories often trapped in the minds of soldiers, expecting them to recover… to “get back to normal.” 


Now we watch wars unfold on television. If the sounds of gunfire are too intense, we turn the volume down. We don’t hear the cries of those who have fallen. We don’t smell the smoke. If it becomes too difficult to watch, we turn it off. 


This week many people across our nation recognized Veterans Day with parades, salutes, and celebrations. 

But for the seven of us, it was a quiet walk through a peaceful park, buoyed by gratitude for those who went before us.

Thank you ahead of time for sharing this post.


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

A Week to Treasure

A Week to Treasure

I spent this past week in Ohio. 


I stayed with my mom at her house the first two nights. It was sweet to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing and the sound of my mother singing as she moved around the kitchen.


Throughout the week we found time to play a couple of our favorite games like Backstreet Rummy and Farkle. We toured my youngest daughter’s house, which is almost ready for her precious little family to occupy and we attended the musical “School House Rock” to watch my oldest granddaughter perform. She has a wonderful voice. 

I’m not saying that just because I’m her grandmother. The girl landed a solo in the performance that was excellent.


Mom and I attended church together on Sunday. It is the church where my children grew up. The church where all three girls were baptized. The church where all three walked down the aisle on their father’s arm to leave our household for their own, bringing three good men into our family.


It’s the church where we all gathered in 2014, this very time of year, to say our goodbyes to Tom.


Mom spent a couple of nights with me as well. We pulled a few weeds from the front flowerbed. Then, after I’d put some of the power tools and lumber away in my basement workshop, Mom swept the floor of sawdust and bits of wood left behind. But again, we didn’t tire ourselves with all work. We visited and played a few more games. 


My stay in Ohio was a full week. Seven wonderful days. 

I was blessed to have time with family and friends. We celebrated my son-in-law’s birthday at Olive Garden. My grandson, Spencer, was home from college. He and I had a sweet conversation by the fire pit one night and his older brother, Joshua, wrapped his arms around me with one of his amazing bear hugs.


My youngest daughter, Kendall and I completed a beautiful prayer walk at her church. 


My oldest daughter, Allison, came to my house to set up the Christmas tree so that when Mike and I return in December we’ll be ready to celebrate. 


I am one of those people who can easily fritter time away. This week? This week was different. It was a time to pack in every moment possible. I connected with friends. I held tight to family. I even managed to do a few things around the house.


Here are a few pics.

My Sweet Family...and a Star is Born!

Fire Pit with the Family!

The Tree is Ready!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Cowboy Church

 Stable Faith Cowboy Church


Moving into a new community requires finding your way to the grocery, discovering new restaurants, and meeting new people. High on the list for me has always been finding a church family.


Mike and I knew our way around the north Tampa area of Lutz, but moving further north gave cause for us to look for a place of worship closer to our new home. 

We wanted a place where we both felt comfortable. 

We had only been married a couple of months. We both liked the church near our Ohio home, Center Pointe Christian Church. (Actually, Mike really likes the preaching there but isn’t crazy about contemporary music.) 

Me? I can worship almost anywhere as long as the Word is shared accurately, openly, and honestly.


Moving Mike’s things from Lutz to Inverness, we traveled north, passing a small building in the nearby town of Brooksville each day. It was a wood building in a pretty setting. The sign over the porch read “Stable Faith Cowboy Church.” 


I had never heard of a “cowboy church” before. Mike, a bit of a cowboy himself, had the boots for it. It was worth a try. 

I looked the church up online and read “Mission and Principles of the Church.” The 10:30 service would work for us so we headed that way the following Sunday.


These were down to earth people. Of course being invited to enjoy coffee and donuts on the back porch didn’t hurt either. We felt at ease.


The music was great. The preaching was excellent. We were fed.


As the service ended, a man came to where we were sitting. “Mike Tyler!” he called out. Steve had worked with Mike at the Tampa Electric Company for years. His wife is a friend of Mike’s sister. We felt at home.


We haven’t officially joined the congregation yet, but we think of the Cowboy Church as “our church.”


I’ve worshiped in churches with all sorts of music.  I’ve spent time in churches where the message was shared in a different language as well as churches meeting in homes, tents, or theaters. 


I know that “church” isn’t the building or the name. It’s the people. It is the heart for Jesus expressed through word and deed. And if they wear cowboy hats? No problem. If the baptisms take place in a trough outside? No big deal. 


Feeling at ease, fed, and at home. 

Welcome to "the cowboy church."

I suppose this could
be called the "Welcome Wagon."

Baptism in a Water Trough

By the Way...You can find the messages on the Stable Faith Cowboy Church Facebook page.

Note: The baptism we witnessed was that of Wounded Warrior Josh Cooley on August 27. To read his story from a local paper  CLICK HERE.





Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Say "No" to Car Snobs

Say "No" to Car Snobs

Mike is not a car snob.


I’ve known a few. They are those people who look down on a car because it’s a foreign make or not one of Detroit’s Big Three…the Old Guard. Or whatever manufacturer they support.


I used to think my grandfather was a car snob. He only drove Grandma around in a Buick. Then I realized he had Ford trucks and such. It was Grandma who loved the Buick. It was a nice ride.


My parents weren’t car snobs either. We had Fords, Chevrolets, and even a Rambler station wagon back in the day.


My first car was a 1966 Ford Mustang. It was a great car. It was pretty and as it turned out, well built. I know that to be true because it held up fairly well in a crash. At least no one was injured. Of course the car was totaled. 


My first “date” with Mike was in his F-250 Pickup Truck. He picked me up at the house where I was staying in Florida and drove me to our high school reunion. He later came to Ohio in that truck to date me. 


We talked on the phone and texted daily. I learned that he had, tucked away safely in his garage, a 1969 Chevelle Super Sport. It was identical to the car he drove in high school. 


His first car… A true muscle car… A throwback in time… A time to remember with fondness. 


This was my first indicator that Mike was not a car snob. (By the way, I like that in a man.) 


My second clue was when he didn’t make fun of me driving a Honda Accord. He actually appreciates it. Recently he told one of his friends how we drove it back from Ohio this summer. 


“It’s comfortable and with my truck, we would drive from the house in Ohio to the last stop in Kentucky and have to fill the tank. If I was lucky, I could make it to north Georgia before stopping again but would have to stop a second time in Georgia before I hit the Florida line. 

But with the Honda, we left Ohio and didn’t stop until we were well into Georgia. I’m serious. I thought the thing must have a seventy-gallon tank or something! But it only took twelve gallons! I think that car makes gas!”


See what I mean? The man appreciates a good car. No matter what it is.


We drive the Chevelle to our local car show on the courthouse square. The spaces fill up quickly in this cooler weather. At the show you can find old cars as well as new ones proudly displayed by their owners. True car enthusiasts marvel at the Chevelle’s pristine condition. 


If you read my post about my first car show, you know I’m becoming a “car girl.” If you didn’t read it, I’ll post a link at the end. You’ll be able to see Mike’s Chevelle.


Since that first excursion, I’ve learned that people who love cars appreciate all cars for what they offer. True, there are a few who turn their noses up at certain vehicles, but for the most part, car enthusiasts appreciate the unique features each automobile offers. 


Mike and I recently bought a new car. We wanted something a bit sportier than the truck or Honda. The car show was coming up. It’s a monthly event sponsored by the Citrus County Corvette and Camaro Club. Mike said he would drive the Chevelle and I could drive the new car. 


That's Mike's Chevelle on the Left...Cool Car!

Really? Not that I minded. It’s just that I thought it funny he would even suggest it. After all, it’s new…well…new to us. It’s a 2017. It’s pretty. I would feel terrible if something happened in the three miles or so from our house to the car show.


“Are you sure?” I asked. “What if something happens to it?”

“It’s a car, Becky,” he replied. 


That’s pretty much what he said when I was nervous about driving his truck for the first time. “It’s a truck.”


My husband has his priorities right. 

I come before the car. Any car. 


No. It’s like I said. Mike isn’t a car snob. He’s a good man.


As promised, click HERE to read about my first car show. 

If you want to read about my experience driving Mike’s truck, you’ll find that post HERE.