Monday, December 26, 2022

A Restful Moment

A Restful Moment...

Because We All Need One About Now

The hubbub of the holiday season will soon be over. We breathe a bit easier now that the big family meal is over, the gifts have been opened, and the wrapping paper is bagged and put out to the curbside. 

A few weeks ago, a fellow writer sent me a gentle story of a trip to the shores of Lake Michigan. A warmer season. A restful moment when the real treasures are found in spending time with someone you love and taking time to discover something new and wonderful in the blue waters of the lake. 

I invited Bill to share this bit of writing with my readers today as a gift...a sweet reminder of sunshine and water and the amazing creation God has given us. Enjoy!

 Petoskey Stones

by William Morrow

A lazy red sun greets Jane and I as it rises over the hilly countryside surrounding our motel breakfast table – certainly a good start to a morning looking for Petoskey stones.  After breakfast it is only a short drive to the rocky beach on Lake Michigan.

Why would anyone want to look for Petoskey stones? Its lure runs through beachcombers, tourists, and locals, all coming for the mysterious stones located mainly in the Petoskey area on Lake Michigan.  They even have “State Rock of Michigan” status.  Come with me to the shore.

The eye is quickly drawn to the aqua-green shallow water, the lapping waves constantly breaking.  Ten feet or so from shore a lone sea gull perched on a jutting boulder preens herself.  Done, she skims over the deeper blue waters, changes course, and heads toward the far western shore where white cottages and houses nestle themselves into the hillsides. Beneath are portions of a quaint city – storefronts, a church, a taller building.

Meanwhile, we notice a short couple approaching from the parking lot.  The wife’s face is thin making a nice fit for her light metal glasses.  Her quick smile and slightly pitched voice reflect warmth and friendliness.  The husband, stockily built, is wearing waders and clutching a blue plastic cup in one hand.  He wastes no time getting into the water; however, his wife lingers to talk, giving us tips on finding Petoskey stones, volunteering that her husband makes jewelry from the treasured stones, and promising to give us the first one she finds on this day.  

So, we set out on our own to look for the precious stones that have a hexagonal pattern with eyes and a dark center radiating out to a white outline.  Perhaps the best tip that the wife has given us is that the stones show up most clearly when they are wet.

When a novice like me starts looking, it’s hard not to get sidetracked among the myriads of rocks on this beach in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  The crashing waves only accentuate their beauty.  Some of the yellows look like a smooth biscuit, the black one’s glisten, and the white one’s are washed clean.

Further down shore the husband is hard at work. His approach reminds me of ducks looking for food.  Once they hone in on a prey their bills go under water and their fannies bottom up.  The husband’s approach doesn’t exactly measure up to the duck’s but there are similarities. He is almost knee deep in his waders, and he, being short, doesn’t have to bend far to get a good look at the lake’s bottom, and like the duck, he keeps on looking, lifting those heavy waders up and down again and again.

Fifteen minutes hasn’t passed before the wife happily returns with a Petoskey stone for us that isn’t much bigger than a chocolate kiss.  In fact, it is even shaped like a chocolate kiss, but true to the lore of Petoskey stones, many look like ordinary stones.  This one is a perfect example, gray with tiny white specks and one side darkened.

Like the husband, I waste no time in getting to the water.  The moment I dip the stone and pull it into the sunlight, white veins radiate to form hexagonal patterns and black eyes stare back at me as if to say “I told you I was a Petoskey stone.”

Meet William Morrow:

In my freshman year of high school my English teacher told me that I should be a writer.  I dismissed that thought, especially when I went to college and got a bad grade in English composition. Next, my career in warehousing and transportation had nothing to do with words.  In mid life I felt God was speaking to me about words.  I again enrolled in college and after ten years of night classes I got a degree in English Language.  Then I tried teaching writing fundamentals at a junior college and discovered that teaching was not for me.  Lately I’ve only written small pieces like this one.  When I retire in two years, I hope to write a book."





Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Sound of the Season

 The Sound of… 


           You thought I was going to write about the Sound of Music didn’t you? I watched that memorable musical a few nights ago, singing along with Julie Andrews at the top of my lungs. 


           But no, this post is about Christmas music. 


    I love the sounds of Christmas. I once had a collection of record albums filled with Christmas music. As a teen, I played them over and over throughout the season. Now I simply ask Alexa to play Christmas music and she obliges. 


    Music is the universal language. As Alexa played Silent Night, I was reminded of a story that took place in World War II. I don’t remember all of the details, but in 2002, Hollywood came out with a movie based loosely on the true story.


    It is reported that during that horrific war, a ragtag team of American soldiers and a similar group of German soldiers, came upon each other in a mountain hunting cabin near the front line of combat. A woman in the cabin and her son, Fritz, had taken refuge in the cabin. The woman fed both groups of soldiers offering what she had as well as the rations they had. She insisted they all leave their weapons outside. 


    The soldiers, knowing it is Christmas, honor this sort of civilian ordered cease fire. As the story goes, one of the American soldiers began singing Silent NightSilent Night is a German Christmas carol. All of the soldiers join in as the snow falls outside. 


    Indeed, music is the universal language and Christmas music is the language of the season. It is filled with two words: peace and joy.

    I've often thought how wonderful it would be if we could set aside our differences and join together in song.


    This month, I had the opportunity to attend two school concerts. The first was an orchestra presentation and the other, last evening, featured the school choir. My oldest granddaughter performed in both.


    I enjoyed both programs. The music was beautiful. Yet there was something different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I had to mull it over a bit. There were no songs about Rudolph or Santa. Neither evening ended with Silent Night, either.


           Yet, as the students performed, the auditorium was filled with sounds of peace and joy and love. Music is indeed the language we all understand.


           And need. 


           I hope your season is filled with the songs...peace...and joy...of Christmas.

      By the way, if you want to learn more about that snowy night in Germany and the woman who orchestrated that memorable cease fire, Check out Fritz Vicken. After the war, he lived in Hawaii until his death in 2021.




Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Scattering of Christmas

A Scattered Sort of Christmas


We see images on television of people coming down the stairs to open gifts on Christmas morning. Some people do that, yet in reality, many open gifts on Christmas Eve. 


And if you are part of my family, you open gifts whenever you can get people together.


Take this Christmas. Most of my family opened Christmas presents during our “ThanksChristmas” gathering in November. Most. 


My mother wasn’t feeling well so she was not part of the festivities. Instead, she sent her gifts for everyone to my house. 


It wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting. My mom gives everyone money for Christmas. It’s her version of “one size fits all” and takes joy in her claim “No one ever returns it.”


Yet because she wasn’t here, we had to make other arrangements for her to receive her gifts. 


My middle daughter, Danielle, and her family stopped by my mom’s house on their way back to Wisconsin to give her their presents after Thanksgiving. 


This past Saturday, my oldest daughter, Allison, and her family brought GG’s gifts and a breakfast casserole to my house for a Christmas brunch. Yes, many people know my mother as GG. It stands for Great Grandma, a title she’s held for over twenty years.


Allison and her crew took the money GG had given them and bought what they wanted. Instead of  merely telling her what they did with the money, they wrapped everything up and brought it all to my house so GG could see them open gifts from her. It was fun.


Soon to come: my youngest daughter, Kendall, and her family have a special treat in mind for GG. It’s a surprise. (It isn’t Christmas yet, anyway.)


It’s good we are flexible enough to celebrate a rather scattered Christmas. But isn’t that the way of the true gift God gave us? 


We talk about Christmas in terms of the birth of Jesus. We sing carols to celebrate the notion that God would come to earth as a baby, live a life as we do, and ultimately offer himself as a sacrifice on the cross to account for our evil doings. 


Our evil. Not His.


The true gift of Christmas is a daily celebration of God’s sacrificial love for us. And it is scattered throughout the year.


By the way, if you missed the post on ThanksChristmas, You can check it out HERE.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Ohio Literary Trail

 More Than Stroll on the Literary Trail


For the past several years, my mother’s Christmas gift to me has been an Ohio membership for the automobile club called AAA. (Triple A) 

Good thing. There was the time my battery died. The time I had a flat tire. And of course the time I was at a restaurant with a friend and she locked her keys in her car. Yep, they came and helped us then, too.


The organization sends me their magazine as well. I enjoy the articles and tips. Because I live in Ohio, the magazine always has articles about the best places to visit in “the Buckeye State.” 


I save the stories I find most interesting.


I am a member of the Ohio Chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). I served as the president for a couple of years. My last year to serve was 2021. That year, I proposed we accept the challenge to visit sites on the Ohio Literary Trail. I pulled out my AAA Magazine and shared the article I’d read about it. The Ohio Literary Trail was put together by the Ohioana Library Association. 


After some discussion and a bit of research, our group took on the task. 


To kick it off, we met at the Ohio History Center in the state’s capitol, Columbus. We picnicked in the historical village and toured the grounds. Ideas for stories taking place along the trail began to take shape. Michelle Levigne of Ye Olde Dragon Books offered to publish some of the stories in an anthology. 


This little idea was growing legs and taking off.


Various sites around the state were selected and hosted by members who lived near them. For my offering, I chose the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati. I knew a little about the famous author of Uncle Tom’s Cabinbut not much about her life in the suburb of Walnut Hills near me. I had no clue how her nearly twenty years in the area inspired the writing of her most famous book. 


I did my research and prepared myself for our group outing. Since I write contemporary fiction, I started pulling together an idea for a story before I ever toured the site.


My thought was to have a young mother help chaperone her daughter’s field trip to the house. The daughter would look at a photo and say something about her grandpa. I decided my main character would study the photo, see the resemblance, track down a long forgotten story of a guest in the Stowe house, and eventually, fill in the gaps of her father’s long lost family history.


It didn’t work. Not one photo I saw inspired me. I would need to dig deeper. However, the event was a success. I enjoyed learning about the time period and viewing the way of life once lived in that old house. Still, I needed an angle. I don’t write historical fiction. How could I write a story about Harriet Beecher Stowe without it sounding like a book report? 


I prayed about it. I wrestled with a few ideas. Then I prayed some more. 




So I let it go. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to have a story in the anthology after all. But then it happened. As it often does, when I let go of an idea or stop trying to force an outcome, God brings it to my mind as clear as a summer morning.

Grab a Copy HERE


Split time. I read about it somewhere. Split time is actually two stories taking place in two different time periods but converging in a way that changes the direction of one of the characters. I know. It sounds a bit crazy and a little sci-fi, but it isn’t.


My historical character was Harriet Beecher Stowe. Through the story, I peeked into her daily life and the events shaping her writing. The contemporary character, Beth, is also a wife, mother, and writer living in Cincinnati. There are parallel experiences in the lives of these women and a common cause. Beth draws from Harriet a sense of purpose and a commitment to use her pen to change lives. 


The anthology released this past week. I’m posting the link to the book. You may want to grab a copy for that hard-to-shop-for friend or the Christmas exchange. That would be great. 


But the big take-away? This bit of advice: Whatever you are facing, turn it over to God and let Him do the heavy work….Oh, and of course, then…remember to tell Him “thank you.”


Thank you, AAA!

    Choose your next adventure!

        What inspires you?



Tuesday, November 29, 2022

First Snow

 First Snow


There is always something special about the first snow of the season. I remember as a little girl standing in the yard, my face turned up to the sky, trying to catch fluffy flakes of snow on my tongue.


Our first snow this year came a bit earlier than usual, but as it turns out, just at the right time. Mike was in town from Florida. I was able to enjoy the experience through a fresh lens. 


Fortunately, the roads were clear.
We planned a trip to my cousin’s house for that day. I didn’t question the notion of him driving on the snowy roads. It wasn’t bad, though. For the most part, the roads were clear. My cousin John and his wife live on a beautiful farm northwest of where I live, but still in Ohio.


John and Jewel tap the sugar maple trees in their woods and make syrup every year. It is sweet and tasty; Made even more delicious because of the love they pour into each jug of syrup. Tapping the trees starts in February so Mike and I couldn’t see that part of the production. 


Still, John wanted to take us for a ride through the woods in a side-by-side. (Kind of a dune buggy with a plastic curtain zipped around us.) 


The Abominable Snowman Look is in!
Before we headed out of the house, John and Jewel handed each of us insulated coveralls. We may have looked liked overstuffed abominable snowmen, but we stayed warm. Once bundled, the four of us took a ride through the woods. It was beautiful. 


There is an indescribable stillness in the woods when the snow is falling. A quiet covering of the whole world. Or so it seems in the moment. 


Snow in the Woods
John drove us along the trails, pointing out different trees and animal habitats. We rode by the “wetland” area and skirted a field recently harvested of its soybeans. 


Once we returned, John took us through his out buildings to see where and how the syrup is made. John and Mike discussed the operation and the machinery. Together they examined the tools in the workshop. Guy stuff.


My sweet cousins, John & Jewel

Finally, we trekked inside

and peeled off the layers of coats and coveralls. As the four of us sat down to a meal of delicious hot soup and warm rolls, I couldn’t help

 but think how perfect a day we had just experienced. 


The entire outing may have been a cold and snowy day of adventure but for me it will always be a warm memory of friends as family and family as friends. 


Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1-8 reminds us:

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace."

And...just maybe...a time for snow.



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.