Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Finish the Course

 Finish the Course


I am not a runner. I walk quite a bit. I even have a step counter to prove it. I recently completed the annual Hunger Walk and 5K Run event in my neck of the woods. The goal was to raise money for a local food bank in Cincinnati. 


I was in. I like to walk and I LOVE to know the money raised will feed hungry people in my community. 


Yep, I can walk. 

But run? No. 

If I were in that well-known race captured in children’s literature, I would be the tortoise, not the hare. That’s not all that bad. If you remember the story, the tortoise wins. Not because he’s fast but because he stays the course.


Many people offer advice on winning a race. They train to win. They hire coaches and spend hours timing their runs. 


Since you already know I’m not a runner, you know not to expect a post coaching you on how to win. This is a post coaching you to stay the course. It’s about crossing the finish line. 


Because in most of life Finishing is Winning.


Staying the course earns you a certificate, diploma, or degree in educational circles.

Staying the course helps you finish a difficult task or pay off your debt.

We know staying the course, even when it is an uphill battle in any relationship has its own rewards.


Sometimes the rewards for finishing the course are delayed. 


Consider parenting. Finish the course. Yes, there are perks along the way, but watching your children grow to be fine adults is wonderful. And grandkids are a bonus!


Work. Finish the course. Okay, you get a paycheck, but you plod along and do your best. One day, you wake up to retirement and say, “Is this Monday or Tuesday?” before you fall back into your pillow for and extra hour of sleep.


In the Bible, Paul talks about staying the course, running the good race. He writes to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” He doesn’t speak of “winning.” He speaks of “finishing.” (2 Timothy 4:7) In Hebrews 12, he writes, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”


Run the race. Finish the course. Fight the good fight.


So how do you do that?One step at a time. One day at a time. One small objective leading to a larger goal. 


Losing weight? One pound at a time.

Get a diploma? One course at a time.

Learn a new skill? One day at a time.


It’s kind of like the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

What course are you traveling? Leave a comment and I’ll offer you a word of encouragement!

Here are a few pics from the event:

We started with the Star-Spangled Banner...

We walked from Ohio to Kentucky! (Not as far as it sounds.)



Yes we had a celebration with hot dogs and everything! (I told you there are rewards for finishing the course!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Death by Honeysuckle

 Death by Honeysuckle


Sounds like a book title, doesn’t it? Death by Honeysuckle by Wynott Garden?


I live in a community known as Cinnamon Woods in Ohio. I’ve been wondering since I  moved here in 2017 if a more accurate name would be Honeysuckle Hollow. The vegetation gets its name from the fragrant white flower it produces. Bees love it. It serves a purpose. I think.


The massive bushes are everywhere. I’m not sure there is one homestead in my neighborhood completely free of the invasive brush. 


I’ve cut, pulled, sprayed, and dug as much as I can. The brush and I seem to have reached an impasse. 


Don’t misunderstand. Honeysuckle is actually pretty and could make a nice hedge. That is, IF it stayed where it was planted and didn’t have a mind of its own. 

The Honeysuckle Flower
has a sweet fragrance
bees love.

However, the new growth twists and turns. It has wound itself around sections of my fence, threatening to pull the entire fence apart. My grandson, Spencer, dug several roots of the miserable plant out from a flowerbed in my back yard. We chopped and dug as much as we could. I thought I had the monster licked. But when spring arrived, a couple of small, noticeably “dead” stumps started sprouting new growth. I sprayed a brush killer on them to remind them who’s the boss.

New growth from
 a dead, woody, 
honeysuckle stump.

I hired someone to clear the honeysuckle from around the woodpile at the back of my property. Only then did I discover I owned a good fifteen feet more land than I thought!


My ongoing battle with honeysuckle is akin to a low budget horror film: Invasion of the Honeysuckle. 


And believe it or not, people buy and plant honeysuckle! I’m not kidding. Google it if you don’t believe me. You can buy seeds for eight bucks on Amazon or purchase one of the little monsters in a pot for twenty dollars. 


Hmm…now that I think about it…I have some lovely little plants for sale. Beautiful honeysuckle bushes to create your fragrant, private, backyard haven. If I dig them and plop them into an old coffee can, I’ll give you a great deal…$10 each if you live out of state and sign a promise to never plant them in Ohio. EVER.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Welcome to the Jungle

 Welcome to the Jungle


“Welcome to the jungle.” I know that is a line from the Cincinnati Bengals as fans walk into the stadium. It is also the phrase I use when I visit a local specialty food market called Jungle Jim’s.


There is no other market like Jungle Jim’s around. I remember when my brother-in-law and sister-in-law visited us. They have lived all over the world. They assured us they “had seen it all.” They were prepared to be unimpressed. It didn’t happen. Hours later, we finally emerged from the store and they agreed they had never seen anything like the Jungle.

I love to go to Jungle Jim’s. So much so, I included it in my novella, Courtesy Turn, which was published in an Ohio anthology called From the Lake to the River.


But here is what I love most. The store isn’t about selling stuff to different people. It’s about sharing food with all people. Even the entrance is marked in numerous languages. 


If you read last week’s post, you know my grandson surprised me with a little “tour of Japan” through a season of snack foods on Mother’s Day. The real surprise was the fact that my twenty-year-old grandson stepped out of his comfort zone and tried foods he couldn’t pronounce coming from packages he couldn’t read…and he loved it!


(If you missed that post on being adventurous, you can click HERE to read it for yourself.)


One cracker-type snack filled with a red bean paste was particularly delicious. I decided to buy more of those and surprise Joshua. Where do you go for that? Jungle Jims.

A few of the
Japanese Snacks
at  the Jungle!

The Jungle is unique. It is both a grocery store and an international market. And more. Jungle Jim’s is so much a part of Cincinnati I sometimes take it for granted. So I here is an abbreviated tour of the Jungle this week. 


Let’s start with the “more.” It may be for foodies, but there is certainly an entertainment vibe. Jungle animals and sounds greet you. Inside, animated characters entertain passersby. There is a cooking school where you can learn to prepare a wide variety of foods.


Even the bathrooms won an award. Seriously. 

The port-a-potty is a ruse.
It opens to an award winning bathroom.

All  displays are colorful and the inventory ranges from greenhouse plants and floral arrangements to housewares, pet supplies, groceries, bakery items, a meat market, vegetables and fruits from around the world, fresh seafood and fish (actually swimming in the tanks), toiletries, toys, books, “as seen on TV” items, candy, health food (Notice how I put those next to each other?) frozen foods…everything. 


There are aisles and aisles of spices, canned goods, candies, and baking supplies from nations I've never visited.


This post was never intended as an advertisement for a great local market in Fairfield, Ohio. 

It is simply this: 


Each time I visit the store, I am reminded of how diverse the United States is in terms of ethnicity and how alike we are when we come together for a meal.


Gathering around a banquet table set for the world…welcome to the Jungle.

Want to know more? Here's a link to a YouTube video with Jungle Jim himself:


And a few more pics.

Yes, this is Jungle Jim, himself.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Chasing and Embracing Adventure

 Adventure: Chasing or Embracing?


I’ve often been told I am an adventurous person. Curious. I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t back away from new experiences. Mostly. But I don’t constantly seek them out, either. 


I decided there are two types of people in the adventurous category: Chasers and Embracers. We won’t talk about the third category of people whose idea of adventure is trying mustard instead of ketchup on a hamburger once. Just once.


To my way of thinking, Chasers are those who climb a mountain then seek one that is higher. They go on to find and climb another one more treacherous to challenge them. They need to increase the challenge and up the danger levels to get that euphoric reaction they desire. It’s akin to an emotional “high.”


I am not a “Chaser.”


I enjoy trying new things even though I may not have been looking for them. Meeting new people, traveling, eating new foods, and trying new activities. Those may challenge me. Stretch me. Cause me to see the world differently. Even when I have to be coaxed to “jump in the deep end,” so to speak, I do it. Generally, I find those experiences gratifying.


I am an “Embracer.” 


Tom and I raised three Embracers. Allison, Danielle, and Kendall learned early on to take on new challenges as opportunities. They all three enjoy meeting new people, trying new experiences, and tasting new foods. They love people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages. 


This week we celebrated Mother’s Day. Flowers and candy were displayed in all the stores. I went to church with my mom and cooked our midday meal. My daughter in Wisconsin had given me a pot of flowers to plant. I took a walk with my youngest to recognize the day…and get some exercise.


Then, my oldest daughter showed up with her family. My son-in-law planted a blackberry bush in my back yard. It was a sweet day. But the real surprise came from my oldest grandson, Joshua.


Joshua ordered a box of Japanese snacks on the internet. 


First you need to understand one important fact. When I am talking about food and Joshua, I am usually (probably nine times out of ten) making a reference to mac and cheese. I have never known this man-child to be adventurous in the food department. Never.


Yet here we were, sitting out on the deck sampling snacks from halfway around the world. The box he ordered was called the “Seasons of Japan.” Fortunately, it came with a guidebook because we couldn’t read the labels.


We tried everything. Like anything else, we liked some better than others. But the most important piece was WE TRIED IT ALL. 

Becoming an adventurous person? Maybe that “Embracer” thing isn’t something you learn. Maybe it is in the genes after all. 

A few of the snacks we enjoyed.
Check out BOKKSU for more.


What have you done that others consider adventurous?


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Down and Dirty

Getting Down and Dirty


Probably not what you think. 


Here in southwestern Ohio we’ve had a most unusual spring season. It will be sunny and warm one day and cloudy and rainy the next. We’ve had several days in a row of what I call “short sleeve” weather followed by a blast of cold complete with a smattering of snow or frost. 

The man who mows my lawn has to sandwich the trimmings between continually shifting wet and dry weather patterns.  It’s crazy.


I’m a warm weather kind of girl, so I wake up to sunshine smiling and singing. I set about weeding the flowerbeds and browsing the plants at my local Lowes store. I spray the honeysuckle… a never-ending battle…and trim the bushes.


Then it turns cold or rainy (or both) again and I’m stuck inside staring at the calendar. 

I shouldn’t be surprised. Rarely in the past have I planted a garden before the first of May.  I do, however, usually have the ground ready and seedlings growing and waiting inside the house to be transplanted. Not this year. But I keep trying.


I’ve always loved playing in the dirt. When my best friend, Nicky, and I were young we attempted to dig a hole to China. Nick’s brother told us we could do it so we tried. 


On the farm, I played with toy trucks and tractors, making roads to travel and fields to cultivate in the dirt beside the driveway. I sifted through dirt by the creek, certain I would one day find gold.


Dirt is good stuff. It’s the kind of stuff fully equipped to grow vegetables or dreams. Take your pick.


This past weekend, my middle daughter and two of her kiddos came for a visit. The weather was beautiful. We headed outside so the children could play. My mom, daughter, and I surveyed the flowerbeds and fencerow. My youngest grandson tagged along.


As we talked we pulled a weed or two. I showed Danielle some rotting logs in the back I hoped to reposition. “Once these are cleared,” I said as a kicked one of the logs, “I’ll be able to plant a garden here.”


The log was soft. The ever-changing weather had managed to further the decay of the logs and stumps in my path. I retrieved a shovel from the shed and started chipping away at the rotting wood.


Soon, my daughter and mother were caught up in the “mostly-fun but actually, work” mode of whittling down the remaining woodpile.


“What rich soil,” my mother said. “This will make a wonderful garden!”


As we worked, my youngest grandson hopped into the thick of it all. He dug in the dirt with his hands, unearthing worms and centipedes and what he described as “the biggest beetle ever.”


Soon…when the rain stops…I’ll be planting my garden. I’ll likely plant tomatoes and peppers. I may plant potatoes and onions. I like beans and cucumbers. I don’t know for sure what all I’ll plant, but as I watched Nathanael play in the dirt, I was reminded of this simple truth: 


Every Living Thing Needs Dirt, Water, and Sunshine to Grow...

So Do Dreams