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.