Tuesday, November 22, 2022




As your children grow up and marry, you often find yourself juggling the holiday calendar to accommodate “the other family.” It can be tough. 


Many years ago, after our three daughters were all married, Tom and I began alternating the hosting of our holidays. We could expect the whole family at our house for Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the next. It worked and proved to relieve some of the stress our daughters felt about trying to visit both families in a single day. It also gave us the opportunity to plan a family snow skiing trip over the break when it was our turn to host Christmas. Or, as in 2016, a Christmas Cruise on the Disney Cruise Line.


The Morphing of Thanksgiving


Somewhere along the line, we started exchanging Christmas presents the day after the big turkey fest instead of mailing them or taking them to each house later. The girls called it “ThanksChristmas.”


If you want to know the truth I kind of like ThanksChristmas. My Christmas shopping is done. I get to see all of my kiddos for an extended time. We laugh, play games, visit, sing, eat, then start the whole thing over again. My daughters like to get up early for the Black Friday sales. 


I like having them all together.


The added benefits to keeping this practice are many. The Christmas holidays are more relaxed. We carol, go to concerts and parties, attend school programs, and avoid those last minute runs to the shopping malls.


This, 2022, is one of those years. My Christmas tree is up. My Wisconsin kids will stay the week with me. The extensions are in the table. The turkey will be served. My mom will bring her cranberry salad and Allison will bring her pumpkin rolls.


It isn’t always the same. The year of Tom’s bicycle accident, Thanksgiving was only a few weeks away. It wasn’t our appointed ThanksChristmas time, but my whole family was present. I couldn’t focus. I was still reeling from Tom’s unexpected death. 


I told my family, “I don’t think I can handle the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven all day. If you want a traditional Thanksgiving meal, it needs to be at someone else’s house.”


They voted for home.


They chose a nontraditional menu. David made his famous spicy Buffalo chicken dip.  We had wings, salami wrapped dill pickles, macaroni and cheese, well…you get the idea. Sounds like a crazy menu, doesn’t it? It was. But it was wonderful. 


And we gave thanks. 


Because even with all its traditions and expectations, Thanksgiving is about looking at the good in your life, adjusting to the bad, and celebrating with family and friends.


Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and…Happy ThanksChristmas!

Mike couldn't be wth us, so he sent his own 
ThanksChristmas Wishes!




Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Christmas Tree Farm

 The Christmas Tree Farm


If you read my post, “Walking on Sunshine” a few weeks ago, you know I love autumn. I love the changing colors of the trees. (If you missed that post, CLICK HERE.)


It’s difficult to capture the indescribable beauty of sunshine on the red, gold, orange, and green leaves. I’ve tried to share with my high school friends in Tampa how special that time of year can be with the vibrant hues of autumn. So when Mike came from Florida for a visit during that colorful season, I expected his firsthand view of the trees to astound him. Instead, he was amazed by the blue spruce “Christmas trees” beside my driveway. 


“Everybody has Christmas trees growing right in their yard!” I overheard him say to his sister. “Becky has two right beside her driveway!”


I never considered the only “Christmas trees” native to Florida are long needle pines and cedar trees. Brokers import the more traditional trees to sell on Christmas tree lots there. 


So when Mike returned to the area this past week, I arranged for him to visit my cousins’ Christmas tree farm. This is the very farm where my cousins, Steve and John, grew up. The fields once planted with hay and corn are now planted with rows of beautiful trees. Steve and his son, Brian, run the entire operation. 


Mike taking in rows  upon rows of Christmas trees.

The day we visited was sunny and warm. And educational. Once planted, it takes eight years before a tree is mature enough to harvest. I never appreciated the investment of work and the length of time it takes to grow a beautiful tree I may display for only a few weeks in my home.


 Then again, I should understand. I have three daughters. Three beautiful daughters. 

Allison, Danielle, and Kendall

They are good people. 

They are smart and capable. 


Of course it took a lot longer than eight years before they left our garden patch and planted themselves in their new lives. I’ve watched as they continue to grow as wives and mothers. I’m amazed at the way they use the gifts and talents God has given them. All three are strong, caring women. 


Every day I thank God for my daughters. They need no lights, ornaments, or tinsel. Allison, Danielle, and Kendall are beautiful inside and out. 

What are you growing in your life garden? 

More from the Bartels' Christmas Tree Farm: 

This little guy is only a couple of years old.

Want to visit the Christmas Tree Farm? This year you will need an appointment. But it is so worth it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Power of Care

 The Power of Care


I am now an official graduate of the West Chester Citizens Police Academy. There were no caps and gowns. No band. No valedictory Speech. No…nothing like that. But there was lasagna. 


It’s been quite an experience. I have learned and done so much over these past ten weeks. 

    I completed a “ride along”from 7:00pm on a Saturday night until 2:00am on a Sunday morning. (And note, I did call it a “ride along” instead of a “drive by”…an error I’ve made more than once.)

    I learned the basics of fingerprinting.

    I participated in a firearms simulator.

    I participated in some basic S.W.A.T. training.

    I learned about the division of “plain clothes” police officers and all they do.

    I learned the ins and outs of the polygraph. (Now that’s something parents of teenagers could use. Or not.)

     I learned the math, science, and technology behind accident reconstruction

That is a mere sample of all I’ve learned. I’ll post the links to four other blog posts related to the Citizens Police Academy at the bottom of this page so if you missed one, you can take a look.

It’s been a great opportunity. Yet of all of them, Week 8 will forever stand out in my mind. For me, in many ways, it was the best.


The School Resource Officer (SRO) serves on the front line. Just as the rubber bullet is meant to deter a criminal, the SRO is shaping the attitudes, the thinking, of young children and teens before they may decide to move in an unhealthy direction.


That same attitude of caring permeates the department. It isn’t about “bad guys and good guys.” It isn’t an “us vs. them” attitude.  

 Despite the sirens, the training, the firearms, the S.W.A.T. team, the shields and the uniforms…

 The big takeaway from my Academy experience …

Is not about “the use of force.”

It’s about “the power of care.”

Now I am a Graduate.


I already talked with a gal from the Alumni Association to tell her I want to be a part of that group. She asked me why I took the course. I told her about the suspense book I’m working on involving a string of kidnappings.

“You, know,” she said. “You may want to look into the FBI Citizen’s Academy.”


I’m still laughing…though I checked. There is  a website…

As promised: Here are the links to previous posts concerning my Citizen Police Academy Experience in case you missed one. Enjoy.


September 7              “Citizen’s Arrest”                               

September 20            “Train, Serve, Protect”                      

October 5                   “Fitted With a Body Cam”               

October 18                 “Special Weapons And Tactics"         

I did it!
Honored to graduate from the West Chester Citizens Police Academy.
L-R: Chief of Police Joel Herzog, Me, Sergeant Michael Bruce, Academy Commander

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Marshmallows and Memories


Campfire: 1984.

Of  Memories and Marshmallows


Those of you who follow my blog or Facebook account know that for the past eight years, October 29th has frequently been a tough day for me. My husband died on that day in 2014 from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident.


It is not a day to celebrate. Though we could. We wouldn’t be celebrating losing him, but rather cheering for him in his new heavenly home. 


It is not necessarily a day of mourning, either. Yes, I’ve mourned. Losing Tom was the hardest experience of my life. But over these last eight years, God has been faithful to bring me to places of healing, surround me with people I need, and teach me how to move forward a little more each day.


Through the years, October 29 has simply been a day we recognize. And remember. Some years we’ve gathered for a meal. Some years we’ve visited his grave.


This year we came together at my house. The weather was perfect for my son-in-law David to grill hamburgers. Kendall brought a pasta salad. Allison made brownies. Mom and I pitched in. 


You get the idea. 


After we ate, as the shadows of night began to fall, the guys built a fire in the fire pit. We roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. We talked about past fire pits and campfires. We laughed. We played as a family will do. Even Nora and Josie’s dog, Kiwi got in on the fun. 


But more importantly, we built a new memory as we shared our hopes and dreams for the future.  Tom would have loved it.

Be sure to check in next week for my final (?) post on the Citizens Police Academy.  

Now for a few pictures:

Gathering around the fire pit together. 





So, yes, my oldest grandson is taller than me. But my youngest  granddaughter is still shorter. (Whew!)


Mike sent a centerpiece for our dinner table and the makings for dessert were ready to go.

The fire was hot and ready.

The evening wasn't all that cold. Here's Jo in her Princess dress.

So maybe we got a little wacky. Allison and I were ready to launch Apollo Nora.





Kendall, Josh, and Kiwi.



It is the ebb and flow of life. How we deal with the events that come our way...either they wash over us, drown us, or we learn to swim.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Walking on Sunshine

 Walking on Sunshine


Back in the eighties there was a song called Walking on Sunshine. The chorus said “I’m walking on sunshine, wo-oh, And don’t it feel good?”


Despite the poor English, I agree. 

Walking on sunshine indeed feels good. 


I can’t help but sing these words as I stroll through my neighborhood. I feel good in part, because with the changing of seasons, the leaves are turning from a somewhat monotone green to glorious colors of red, orange, and gold. I feel good because the sun warms my face and touches my soul. 


October is one of my favorite months for many reasons. Yes, it is soothing to sit outside and soak in the autumn sun. But there is more.


In October, the apples are ready to be picked. When I was a little girl, we worked together at my grandparent’s farm cleaning the apples, cutting them, and feeding them into the cider press. To tell the truth, I probably did little to help with the making of cider…but give me a tree to climb and I was your girl.   


Perhaps the best reason for me to embrace October is that my middle daughter, Danielle, celebrates her birthday this month. Like the leaves, Danielle changed from an active baby to a tomboy; from tomboy to a beautiful girl; from a beautiful girl to an incredible wife and mother. 


Now all four of her children are in school and Danielle is making another transition as she finds new ways use her many gifts and talents.


It’s what happens. Like the leaves on the trees, as we move through the seasons of life, we all change. 


Change isn’t something to fear. Neither is aging. We cannot live in spring or summer forever. Though my mother disagrees, I am likely in the autumn of my life (okay, Mom…early autumn). 

It is a vibrant time of joyful living, a new and exciting relationship, and rest from the demands of raising little ones or plodding off to work every day.


I enjoy this time. I enjoy the sun whether it shines above or crunches beneath my feet in the form of colorful leaves. 


I’m walking on sunshine…and don’t it feel good? 

My Neighborhood In Autumn








Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Special Weapons And Tactics


Not Sweat. Not Sweet.

Not even S.W. A. K., for those of you old enough to remember that phrase on the back of an envelope.  

S.W.A.T. ... Special Weapons And Tactics.

For those of you following my Citizen Police Academy journey, I’m happy to report I survived the S.W.A.T. team adventure this week. 


This is a police tactical unit trained to use, as the name indicates, special equipment and employ maneuvers necessary for unique situations. For example, someone may be armed and barricaded in a building. He or she may have hostages to be rescued. We’ve all seen the scenarios on television. 


In fact, we watch television and we get a fairly accurate picture of the makeup of a S.W.A.T. team. We understand the team consists of a commander and negotiators. We see armed police officers including those with rifles. And there are members of the team identified as “entry personnel.” Those are those heavily protected guys we watch carry shields, knock down doors, and rush into the scene.


So if television offers a clear picture, why take the class? What is left?


Becoming part of the team. 


Well, at least participating in some training. The S.W.A.T. team uses three vehicles: An armored boxy looking vehicle to carry the team to the crime site, a transport vehicle to take hostages or bystanders to a safe location, and the Command Operations Platform. (Yeah, I know…it spells COP.) 


Half of our class climbed into the black boxy armored vehicle called “the BEAR.” It has heavily plated walls and bulletproof glass. Here’s a pic:



The rest of the class boarded the transport vehicle. We left the C.O.P. behind and rode to a country location (who knows where…) to engage our own bit of training.


There we learned about the tactics our S.W.A.T. team uses. For this exercise, they presented us with a few scenarios. The property is set up with the walls of a house or motel with winding halls and a variety of rooms. We were the “bad guys” in that scenario. We learned about the types of weapons needed to target the “bad guys” and remove them from the building. In another case, the “bad guy” had a hostage in a car. You get the idea. The police officers walked us through the strategies and weapons they would use and why. It was pretty interesting. 


But for me the most fun was that I was one of the two people selected to shoot a 40mm gun with a bullet made of rubber. This is designed to inflict pain in someone’s thigh so they’ll stop advancing. The “bullet” would bruise, but not cause permanent damage. (My kind of bullet. Just saying.) As it turned out, I hit the target. 


Those of you who know me know I am not a gun person. So why am I doing all of this? Why is this particular night of value to me?


I’m a writer. I am crafting a book where the antagonist is a broken man kidnapping people across the state. My protagonist is searching for this man. He is working with the police to track him down. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but I’m pretty sure, if everything shakes out as planned, my local police department will be at the heart of the book’s success.


And just for fun, here are a few more pictures:

Rubber Bullet:
I put it next to
a chapstick so you
could see its size. 

Real bullet
Some of the Team! Thank you!

Believe it or not, this little robot 
is a valuable part of the team, too!







Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Family, Food, and Firewood

 Family, Food, and Firewood


It is always good to get together with family. I often think of a family reunion as a houseful of people all talking at the same time, lots of food, and tons of laughter. This year was a bit different.


I chose the date for the reunion at my house because my sweet cousin, Crystal would be in town. She lives in Naples, Florida. Crystal was in Ohio for her niece’s wedding…and before you ask, yes, her home in Naples was untouched by Hurricane Ian. That’s a praise.


As the week for the gathering at my house neared, I heard from various cousins about conflicts with the date or received those “try to get there” messages. In the end, of the dozen or so cousins I have on my father’s side of the family, four of us put our feet under my dining room table. Four cousins, Julie’s husband, Keith and my mom… Six of us all together. Then my daughter, Kendall and her two little girls showed up.


It was perfect.


Crystal, Julie, and my mom brought food. Kendall brought marshmallows to roast. I supplied hotdogs, buns, and drinks. My cousin John arrived with a truckload of firewood. 


We shared stories and memories. We chuckled and shook our heads at our own silliness. We laughed at the story of Aunt Maxine finally getting her drivers license at age eighty-eight…after years of driving without one. A lot of stories started with “Remember when…”


While we were still sitting at the table, Julie and Keith’s daughter sent pictures from her honeymoon in Jamaica. Tara swimming with dolphins; Tara holding what looked like an iguana. Tara and Brandon creating their own new family memories.


We never did get out to the fire pit. We didn’t roast a single marshmallow. We didn’t make one s’more. 


After the others headed home, my cousin John and I took a walk in the neighborhood. We were walking the streets where our grandfather’s cows once roamed over a rolling field and through what my grandmother called “the big woods.” We talked about the old farm and the newer neighborhood. It was as much as story of the fields and woods as it was how the landscape of our lives changes over time. 


Old memories shared and new memories being made. 


Before he left, John and I stacked the firewood he brought. It will serve me well this winter. The fire will warm my house, but it’s the memories of those I love that warms my heart.