Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Little Garden

 The Little Garden


I come from a long line of farmers, so I usually plant a garden. On occasion it has been fairly large and produced enough to round out our meals with fresh veggies through the summer and supply us with canned or frozen veggies in the winter. Other times, when we lived in places where there was little room for a true garden, we planted a few tomatoes in our flowerbeds.


The year I returned from Kosovo, my mother had tomatoes planted near my deck for me to enjoy all summer. And I did. I picked a handful of those little “tommy toe” tomatoes every time I made a salad.


Because the new house where I live didn’t have good soil, my cousin found a couple of old bales of hay for me the next year and I planted my small garden in them. 


During the pandemic, I planted a few tomato plants from seed inside and put them out in my makeshift garden when the weather was nice. I cut up some potatoes that had started to sprout, planted those and enjoyed several meals featuring potato dishes that summer and fall.


My garden hasn’t always been big, but it always brings me joy and a bit of good food.


Then 2022 came. I had a very busy summer planned. I was attending a major writing conference in Illinois in June. I wanted to finish the book I started crafting before the conference. A garden would have to wait. I wrote furiously during those early spring days. 


I made a stir fry meal one night and saved the seeds I cleaned out from the peppers.


I came across a few tomato plants on sale at Jungle Jim’s so I scratched out a small area and planted them. It was a start. Of course some critter bit one off. I’ve never had that happen before, but I babied the stem sticking out so I have three small surviving plants. Out of the four I planted.


The conference was at hand. Gardening was low on my priority list. I packed everything I needed and set about making sure my house was clean. I had a few potatoes starting to sprout in the pantry so I quartered them and planted them near the tomatoes. I didn’t have time to plant the peppers. I know I could have frozen the seeds, but instead, I took the dried seeds and put them in a planter I fully intended to host colorful annuals in front of my house. 


By the time I returned from the conference I had what looked like a million pepper plants sprouting and a flourishing row of potato plants pushing through the earth. My tomatoes looked a bit sad but after a good watering, they bounced back.


My mother enjoys gardening as well, but didn’t put one out this year. She had a few cucumber seeds she planted in pots and I took her some peppers. We put them in a variety of flowerpots and set them on her patio table. We can almost literally watch the cucumbers and peppers grow as we look out the window. A little sun, a little water, and the plants grow a bit more each day. 


The cucumbers are leafing out now. The peppers are getting taller and stronger. 


My mom and I sit in her family room and watch. We joke about our “farm.” We look forward to getting the plants into the ground. 


It is a “little garden.” But even a little garden grows hope.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Unpacking Experience

Unpacking Experience

Do you remember your first day of school? You get home and someone asks, “How was kindergarten?” 


“What did you do?”

“Uh…I dunno.”


Remember those conversations? You may have experienced them with your own children. 


As a former teacher, I know those first days are packed with activity, new friends, and great stories. As a mom, I know it takes a while to unpack any of it.


I came to fully understand the child’s side of this conversation this past week. Following a visit with my family in Wisconsin, I attended the Write-to-Publish conference in Wheaton, Illinois.


“How was the conference?” my own sweet mama asked.


“What did you do?”

“I dunno.”


 I loved the conference. I met authors, publishers, agents, podcasters, and bloggers. There were new writers and those who have over a million books in print. We had music. We had food. We attended workshops and enjoyed great main speakers and programs. 


I enrolled in a multi-day workshop with one of my favorite authors, Angela Hunt. And yes, she and I enjoyed good conversation over lunch.

Angela Hunt and Moi


I took a ton of notes. Some of them are even legible.


In the evening, I headed back to my friend’s house to crash in my comfy bed and prepare for another day.


Now I am home. Somewhat rested. Unpacked. Ready to write.

Now you can ask me.


“How was the conference?”


“Incredible. I met so many great people and learned so much more about my craft. I returned home inspired and ready to write. The food was good and I had a great time with my friend, Cindy Huff and her hubby, Charlie. They certainly made me feel welcome.” 


Favorite Love Inspired
Author and my
Weeklong Go-To: Allie Pleiter
It all comes out in a rush.


“So what did you do?”


“I dunno.”









Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Perseverance, Character, and Hope 

COVID interrupted everyone’s life. That’s a given. However, during the pandemic, my daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren moved from their small Cape Cod house seated on a postage stamp yard in Kenosha to a spacious home situated on a sprawling park-like two acre lot further north in Wisconsin. This summer I finally had the opportunity to visit. 


It is always good to wrap my arms around my family. It was particularly comforting to be a part of the day-to-day life of my daughter and her tribe. I celebrated the end of school with them on Friday. We explored “The Domes” botanical gardens on Saturday. On Sunday I attended church with my sweet ones and met some of their friends.


We talked, played, visited, and walked. The grandkids took me on a tour of their backyard and we roasted marshmallows over the fire pit. Time together is a treasure. As my youngest daughter says, “It fills your tank.”


While visiting, Matthias, my eleven-year-old grandson was to try out for an elite soccer team. He’s played summer soccer a few years. The tryouts for this travel team were held the week of my visit. Many of the kids in the select soccer program play all year long. Many have played together for years. Matthias headed out anyway, committed to do his best. 


A few hours later his dad brought him home from the first night of trials. “It was brutal,” Tim told us. 


This Guy. He Inspires Me.



I ached for my grandson. At first. Then I recognized the power of the experience. I told Matthias how one year, his Aunt Kendall decided to try out for the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO). The program was demanding and accepted only the best musicians. 


Kendall secured the audition piece and took it to her violin teacher. 


“You will fall flat on your face!” the teacher told her. She then turned to me. “Those kids she’ll be up against have been playing violin since they were three years old. She’ll fall flat on her face! Then what?”


“Then I’ll be there to pick her up,” I said.


Kendall was heading to a music camp that summer. She took the audition piece with her. In addition to the music the campers practiced and performed, Kendall’s camp instructor helped her learn the audition piece. 


She came home and put her name in the CSYO hat. The audition came and although Kendall did her best, she did not make the roster. 


But…because of her hard work and determination to improve her skills as a violinist, she auditioned for the Middletown Youth Orchestra and made first chair.


What a good reminder to me. 


I leave my kiddos in Wisconsin soon. From here I head to a major writing conference near Chicago. Like my grandson, I’m not in the same league with many of the writers I’ll be rubbing elbows with at this conference. I’ll be sitting at the feet of masters of the craft of writing. 


I needed this reminder of who I am. I need to remember to humble myself to the teaching I’ll receive. I need to remind myself to practice my craft if I want to score those goals. 


Romans 5:3-5 is a good reminder for us all…okay, me in particular:


…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.






Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Old Shoes

Shoes Tell the Story of Our Lives


One of my favorite scenes in the book Breathing on Her Own is when Molly holds a pair of her injured daughter’s shoes. She hugs them close to her heart with the thought:  Shoes tell the story of our lives. 


There is truth in that. I went out to my garden this morning wearing a pair of Clarks leather shoes I’ve owned for close to twenty years. I thought about that line in the book and considered the stories these old shoes might share.


They would tell how they climbed the steps and walked the

campus of Cincinnati Christian University. 


They would recount the days of waiting in the hospital for grandbabies to arrive or for the heart surgeon to come out and tell me all was well with my husband.


These shoes would surely speak of the wanderings around airports as my husband and I traveled to places such as France or Finland. Or perhaps as we walked the markets of Cairo. 


These shoes have been on my feet at fast food establishments near home as well as fancy restaurants in Italy and Spain. 


They were on my feet when I moved to Kosovo for a year.


They, like me, have slowed down a bit. We’re both a bit worn and frayed. But we’re both still useful. Neither of us travel much anymore. A drivable trip here and there, but nothing more since COVID. 


So I slip into these black leather shoes to water my garden or weed the flowerbed. They may not be as beautiful or stylish as they once were, but they are like an old friend. And they keep my feet warm and dry.  


I know there will come a day when one of us gives out. If they go before I do, I’ll miss them. These old shoes have served me well. 


But the one memory I hold is that day in late October over seven years ago. 


It is a well-known fact among my family and friends that I tend to lose my shoes. It was not uncommon for me to get ready for church but by the time the family was ready to go out the door, I had lost my shoes.


That October afternoon in 2014, I settled into my desk chair. I was working on a new novel when the phone rang. My husband’s bicycle had run off the road. Tom had been thrown into a tree. 


These old leather Clarks were under my desk in plain sight. I slipped into them even as I grabbed my car keys and made it to the scene of Tom’s accident. I wore them as I drove to the hospital and paced the waiting room. They were on my feet as I held his hand, praying as he took his last breath.


I didn’t start this post with that memory in mind. I started it because this morning I pulled out those old leather Clarks so I could go outside and water my garden.  


I think Molly was right. Shoes do tell the story of our lives.


Breathing on Her Own