Monday, December 8, 2014

Thank God for Leggings!

Now that cold weather has arrived it takes more effort to stay warm,
especially when the wind blows.  All of the layers - sweaters and pullovers
leggings, knee socks, wool stockings, boots, hats, mittens and coats and scarves -
are needed some days.  The list goes on and on depending on what activity you are
heading for.  

I don't know how many times someone has asked me,
"How in the world do you keep your legs warm with only a dress on?"

I don't have to answer, "Long johns" any more.
      or "Thermal underwear." 

I can say "Leggings have been invented." 

Moms and their daughters who wear skirts should jump out of bed
on a winter morning and perform a happy little dance along with a
happy little song - James Herriot style.

"Leggings are in, leggings are in, leggings are in today!" 
     or something like that . . .  Oh, wait! that's a song from a story about
Paddington that we used to get from the library back in the days
when we could get stories on records.

I know James Herriot was celebrating a new break-through in medicine,
back when penicillin began saving lives in the days of World War II.

Of course that is an entirely different thing altogether. 

But leggings may help women and girls keep their sanity.  =)

Remember Laura's story in The Long Winter?* The family moved to town
for the winter after Pa heard that this winter was going to be a doozy.

The girls loved school so much they couldn't wait for Monday mornings.
But one Monday Laura begged to leave the red flannel underwear
at home.  Ma sympathized but wouldn't agree so Laura went off to
a miserable day at school.

She describes the red flannels this way, "It made her back itch, and her neck,
and her wrists, and where it was folded around her ankles, under her stockings
and shoe-tops, that red flannel almost drove her crazy,"

With the soft cotton leggings we have today we may have some embarrassing
moments like this one mentioned here .
(Look for Nothing New Under the Sun and Embarrassing Moments  posted Wed. Dec. 3, 2014)

After I read my cousin's embarrassing moment I had the same thing happen to me -
fortunately in my own yard with mom and me the only witnesses.  I was getting in the
car and felt my half slip entwined around my ankles.
(I am blaming the leggings for this one.)    
. . . should I say mom and me? or mom and I?  Help me out, people, I am confused.

*The Long Winter  by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Winner Is . . .

 The drawing is over.
 Krysta picked a name.
And the winner is . . .
Congratulations Dorcas Siegrist!
Thank you everyone for following this blog the last few days.  It's been great to touch base with old friends and make new friends.  And now I need a snail mail address, Dorcas Siegrist, so I can ship the book to you.  You can email me at:

Sunday, November 30, 2014


I created a dilemma it seems.
    Since this is the first time
          I have ever written a review

 -- and offered a giveaway
  I probably did it all wrong --
You see - I need names to put in the drawing.

I will get professional help and see what can be done
to solve this problem.    =)

I will ask my daughter-in-law what to do!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review of Footprints on the Ceiling

                                                  MINNESOTA GIRLS
Meet Dorcas Smucker, author of Footprints on the Ceiling.  Today I am posting a review of her newest book.  Many long years ago my sister, Ladina, and I met Dorcas and her sister, Rebecca.
We compared notes and discovered Dorcas and Ladina were the same age, and Rebecca and I were close to the same age.  We became pen pals and wrote to each other for awhile.  I wish I could say we all were bosom friends for ever and ever, but we lost track of each other and stopped writing and never heard from each other again . . .  until someone emailed me an essay one day and it was written by Dorcas Smucker.  I asked Ladina about it and we put two and two together and came up with four.  This is the same Dorcas that used to write to Ladina.  Before long I was able to catch up with Rebecca by reading the essays.  After awhile the essays were compiled into books and I ordered them to add to my collection. 
Laugh and cry your way through Footprints on the Ceiling.  Dorcas mentions in one of her other books that her collection of essays can be read slowly, like sipping tea. Usually I find myself reading them through as fast as I can and then starting all over again and reading more slowly the second time. 

When I first saw the cover of Dorcas Smucker's new book a faint memory of a story about Abraham Lincoln came to mind.  He played a trick on his stepmother by lifting small people with muddy feet upside down and high in the air to walk across the ceiling. His stepmom quickly figured it out because she was already familiar with Abe's antics.  It seemed to me that one of Dorcas' crew would be mischievous enough to pull off a stunt like that after reading her other books.

Ordinary Days

Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting

Downstairs the Queen is  Knitting

Tea and Trouble Brewing

There was one small mystery -
the initials beside the footprint on the cover say D.Y.
You will want to enter the drawing
and win this book to solve the puzzle.
(Leave your comments at the end of this post and a week from today
I will put all the names in a hat and my daughter,
Krysta, will choose the winner.) 
Email your snail mail address to me at
and I will mail the winner a copy of this book.

Or order the book:

Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included. 

You can mail a check to:
Dorcas Smucker
31148 Substation Drive
Harrisburg, OR 97446
US addresses only

If you live in Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at  You can ask Dorcas for info about
ordering her other books.  You will also find Footprints on the Ceiling on Amazon.

You can follow Dorcas on her blog:

You're in for a real treat.  Dorcas Smucker's books are down-to-earth,
funny and sometimes sad.  They make wonderful gifts for your mom
and all the other gals in your family.  Even the guys in your family
will ask, "What are you laughing at now?"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

WagonTrains and Blog Tours

We interrupt this tale of traveling west
(slower than a wagon train)
to let you know about a blog tour.
It is going on as we speak.
You will have a chance to read
about her new book.
There are some interesting bloggers
who have been writing reviews and . . .
you can even enter your name to win her free book.

 Just a little side note . . . 
a week from today I will post a review of that book. 
You will have another chance to win Dorcas Smucker's new book.  
Have a good Saturday!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hurtling along at 75 mph feels so very dangerous even if the road
is a good interstate.  All across South Dakota I kept thinking about
Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her description of driving in her book
Bring Me a Unicorn.*  She was terrified but determined to keep up
since she was following someone else and didn't know the way by herself. 
She was sure anyone reading her words in the future would get a big laugh
at her fear of driving so fast at 45 mph.

After leaving SD we took a little corner off Wyoming
then started across hwy 212 in MT. 
This is a scenic route by day. 
At night it is just dark
  and much busier
    than I thought it would be. 
All the trucks and semis from MT were headed to SD.
All those bright headlights blinded me.
All those semis whooshing past on a two lane road
through Custer National Forest seemed out of place.

I felt like I was in the middle of a history lesson. 
When we drove through last spring Ellis was listening to a
book on cd telling many details of the days leading up to
Battle of the Little Big Horn. 

No one else in the van was interested. 
In fact one young adult from the back seat
phoned us in the front seat and asked, 
"Why are we listening to this?"
After awhile the book started into some gory details. 
Ellis turned it off.

This time no one was troubled by radio or cd player. 
There were just three people stuffed
into the front of a 1988 GMC 4x4 pick-up. 

* "How absurd this will sound in fifty years --
        to be afraid of driving a car at the crawling speed
              of forty-five miles an hour!" 

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh  in Bring Me a Unicorn

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Time Warp

The other week dad said to mom, "It's been twenty years this fall since my dad died."

Before October 7th arrived (the anniversary of Grandpa Ben's home going) my dad went to be with the Lord. I suppose someday we might casually say the same thing, because moments turn to days and days turn to weeks, weeks to months and months to years. Before we know it twenty years are gone like a blink of an eye.

At this point time seems to have stopped.   All around me I can see that time is galloping on just like it's always done.  I jog along trying to keep up, quite bewildered and unsure of the next step.

Like the plan Ellis came up with to travel to MT and cut firewood for Jeremy and Liz.

It sounded like a good plan.  I had three days off from driving bus.  Ellis had three vacation days coming.  Krysta could get a couple days off from school.

My brain didn't seem able to make the plans that are needed when we go away.
This was frustrating for Ellis. 

"I can't do two things at once!" I wailed. Meaning I can't grieve and get ready to go west at the same time.

Whoever said men can't multitask don't know my husband. He made a box to go on the back of his pick up that would hold a cord of wood.  Before we could say "Jack Robinson " we were loaded and on the way.
To be continued -

editors note:  This is the picture of Ellis' parents, 70 years ago.  I also added it to their anniversary post.

Monday, October 13, 2014

And why is this picture blurry?  
It was beautiful and clear when we posted it!
My daughter-in-law helped me when she
was here for my dad's funeral
-- and it was perfect --
We'll try again soon.

I was thinking about the difference it makes where you end up in a family.

My dad was five years old when Ellis's parents got married. 
His parents are the age of my grandparents.

Ellis is the youngest in his family and I am the oldest in mine.
All of this intrigues me -- most of all I'm learning to
never take my family members for granted.

We never know when we will have to say "Good- bye."

P.S.   And now the picture of Ellis's parents is no longer blurry thanks to my kind editor.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

70th Anniversary

 If Ellis' parents were still on Earth, we would be celebrating their 70th anniversary. If they celebrate anniversaries in Heaven, my dad got there in time to celebrate with his friends, Mark and Florence Harshbarger. Dad went to be with Jesus on Saturday, September 27, 2014.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Days

We heard a notice from our electric company yesterday --
try to limit the use of electricity during the day --
from 7:00 a.m. until sometime in the evening. 
Ellis and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. 
No one home today so no one is washing or drying clothes,
vacuuming, running the air conditioner, fans, water,
baking or cooking -- 
the house is empty.
     (Unless another mouse joined the household)

It's been so hot and humid.  That's why they have this peak alert. 

We have joined the ranks of empty nesters for a couple weeks . . .
just trying it out for a few days.  Krysta will be back after
Labor Day - starting school again and a new after-school job.
She will be one busy girl.  That's good because she didn't really
sign up for being an only child and she's not sure she will like it.

Our lives took an unexpected twist this summer when the school
where Deanne teaches asked Jorgan if he would teach as well.
They will each have 12 students if I heard right.  Two teachers -
no first graders this year and no fifth graders.  So Miss Dea will
have 2nd - 4th and Jorgan will have 6th -10th.

What will his school name be?  Mr. Harshbarger?
Mr. Jorge?   He has been trying on different names.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We have pickles in the kitchen.
Cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar, spices,
jars, lids, rings, hot water

The final count: 
4 quarts Dill Pickles
10 pints Bread and Butter Pickles

It is satisfying to touch the lids the next day and sigh with relief.
Every jar sealed.  It is no fun trying to decide what to do with
pickles that don't seal.  It sort of takes the crunch out of the day
if you know what I mean.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Yesterday I rode with Ellis on a couple deliveries.  In between runs I
stopped at my parents place and helped mom clean the play house. 
Usually this is Krysta's job but she is in western MT
helping Deanne and Jorgan. 

It was very warm!

Every year the play house gets a fall cleaning in time for the fish fry at
Dad and Mom's place.  All the little girls will arrange the dishes in the
cupboard and bake and cook up a storm in that little house. 
They can pretend to wash clothes in a tiny ringer washer.

There is a picture taken long ago of two little girls posing in front of that
same play house.  One tucked her braids in her belt to look like suspenders,
the other has her hair up under a white cap style covering -
a miniature Amish couple come to visit.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Random thoughts for warm summer days --

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Pageants

The last time we were at Walnut Grove MN Ellis had to work late
then we drove across HWY 14  at a great speed to get to the pageant
in time. 

The pageant was told from Ma's viewpoint at that time. 
They have since changed it to be told from Laura's perspective. 
After the pageant we drove to a campsite and kept the car running
so we had lights to set up a tent. 

It was a diesel car and very loud at 11:00 P.M.
Our neighbors were very kind and didn't come over and ask us,
"What in the world do you think you're doing at this hour of the night?"

The next morning we were going to make breakfast over a campfire
but we had forgotten our cast iron frying pans.  We have since perfected
the art of getting food and equipment all together in one place
(the trunk of the car and transported to the campsite)
- unpacked and arranged on a picnic table -
then created into a delicious breakfast/brunch on a campfire.

The menu doesn't change much:
Onions, Peppers and Mushrooms sautéed in butter
Scrambled eggs with cheese
Bacon or Sausage
Spam (we are from Austin MN - the Spam capital of the world)
 -- Slice the Spam and fry it.  It's the only way it is edible. =)

Krysta found a T shirt that describes our experiences.
              Camping Is In Tents

A little play on words. 

There is a lot of character building going on when mosquitos whine
around your head, and there is no light of any kind,
not even the moon.  It is so much better if you get to the spot
in the day light.

This year after the pageant I followed Trenda to a bed and breakfast
down the road about 20 miles.  The doors were open for us.  The beds
were comfortable.  The next morning we admired the beautiful old house,
drank cups of coffee and had a scrumptious breakfast.

Hwy 14 is perpetually under road construction so we took a detour south
and then continued west then north again to DeSmet.

We arrived at Lake Thompson and set up the tent at our campsite.
Like I said, much better in the day time!
Trenda and Brooke didn't like the green algae in the lake.
They have better lakes up north.

Four of Laura's books took place here.
On the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years

Technically, five books because The First Four Years happened here, too.

We signed up for the tour that took us through the Surveyor's house,
two school houses and the house Pa built in town.  After seeing the
bedroom in the surveyor's house I will never again say our bedroom
at home is small.  (Our bedroom wouldn't be so small if we would move
some books out!)

After that we drove out to the homestead and got a wagon ride
out to the edge of Pa's homestead where a school stands.  It isn't the
Perry school because that one burned down, but one like it.
When we pulled up to the hitching post a teacher came out of the school
and rang a bell.  We had just enough time to go inside and find a seat. 

There were straw hats for the little boys, if they wanted to wear them,
and sun bonnets for all the little girls. 
The teacher spoke of some history of that area.  She called up
three classes and they gave some impromptu recitations . . .
nursery rhymes from the little ones,
reading a poem from an old reader for the next group. 
Two boys and a girl went up for the last class so the teacher pretended
they were Cap Garland, Almanzo Wilder and Laura Ingalls
and told interesting stories about them.

Back at the homestead there was a lot of hands on stuff to do. 
We could wash dish towels, put them through the ringer then hang
them on a clothes line. We made a corn cob doll like Susan
in Little House in the Big Woods
We saw how they twisted hay into sticks and ground wheat into flour. 
Brooke rode a pony.

By this time we needed to drive down a trail to the pageant grounds. 
We got our supper at the concession stand and found our spots
smack in the middle
and close to the front.

This summer they put on These Happy Golden Years
After the winter we endured 2013- 2014 we were grateful it wasn't
the year for them to perform The Long Winter.

There was a roll call for all the countries and states represented. 
People from Sweden, Australia, Japan, Canada and many states,
including Alaska, were there.

I was intrigued by the dates of Pa and Ma's birthdays
and the year they got married. 
Pa was born in 1836 and Ma in 1839.  They got married in 1860. 
My parents were born in 1939 and they were married in 1960. 
One hundred years apart. 
Charles and Caroline had four girls and one boy. 
My parents have four girls and one boy.

After we returned home I started reading
Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder
written by Donald Zochert.  
He wrote that - Gasp! - it was Mary who pulled Laura's hair (not Nellie)
and insisted she stay inside at recess and not go out and play ball with
the boys.  Laura didn't listen and played anyway.  But then Mary told Ma.
Ma talked to Laura and after that Laura and her friends stayed inside and
watched the game through the window.

So Laura was very kind and wrote historical fiction and didn't tell what a
naughty girl Mary really was.    The oldest girls in a family are often the
bossiest people imaginable.  I know this from personal experience
since I'm the oldest in my family. 
I was called "bossy"  many times
and - sadly - deserved it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bushel Baskets

We got a catalogue from LEHMAN'S in the mailbox today.
On the back page there's a picture of two bushel baskets.
 -- one with a blue liner trimmed in yellow gingham
 -- one with a red liner trimmed in blue gingham.

This brings me another chance to skip down memory lane . . .

A long time ago before plastic clothes baskets were available
people used bushel baskets to carry laundry to the clothes line.
The trouble with that is clothes could get snagged or maybe even stained
if they were in the wooden basket for too long.  Someone came up with
liners for baskets.  They were wonderful.

One day when my family was shopping
I overheard mom say she needs a
liner for a basket. 

Little people have a lot of trouble hearing.

Mom said basket.
I heard the word *baskin*
Baskin was our copper colored spaniel at home. 

Of course!  She was buying something special for our dog.

All through the store and in the car all the way home
I looked forward to giving a present to Baskin. 

We got home. 

Mom slipped the liner over the
wooden bushel basket.  She carefully
lined up the openings to fit over the metal handles.

Then came the questions . . .
and the explanations 
and the disappointment when I found out the liner
was not for our puppy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This afternoon I called the driving instructor to schedule three
two hour sessions for Krysta.  Before calling I told her she probably
will have to wait until September.

The look of horror and disbelief on her face was priceless. 
That's exactly what I found out.  They are booked and the first
opening is almost the middle of September.

Speaking of permits, I also have a permit and need to practice
driving a school bus with air brakes this summer. 
This is not my favorite thing to do . . .
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tripping down memory lane took Krysta and me to Walnut Grove MN
and De Smet SD last week end.  My sister, Trenda, asked if we'd like to go. 
We jumped at the chance.  We drove to Walnut Grove on Friday, arriving
about four in the afternoon.  Trenda and Brooke were on a bus tour. 
They went to see the caved in dug out On the Banks of Plum Creek. 
While we waited for them to get back we browsed around the gift shop
and then paid a small fee to step through the door to wander down the path
to a school house and a small church house and several other buildings
displaying old time stuff.  The path went past prairie grasses and wild flowers.

Next on the agenda was a picnic supper,
then we hopped in with Trenda and drove
out of town to the Pageant.

~  and this will have to be continued

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Country Mouse and City Mouse and . . . Salamanders

Some of my friends have moved from the city to the country.
I am proud of them.  It has to be a huge adjustment.  I don't know if I could
do the reverse movement from country to town/city.

Never say *never* since we know what often happens when people make
loud proclamations like, "We will never move to a city!  Never!"

Except for about five weeks or so in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a newborn
and then a few months as a toddler in a tiny town in North Dakota I've lived
all my life in the country.

Krysta and I had a teensy tiny experience of lawn care in town the other week.

Who mows the lawn when there's a foreclosure on a property?
The grass keeps growing even if no one is home. 

Ellis has a knack for finding odd jobs to keep his family busy.

On the 16th of June we had buckets of rain.
We found out we needed to mow this neglected lawn on the 17th.
Jorgan was at summer camp so Krysta and I offered to help.
Ellis went home, loaded the walk- behind mower, drove back,
unloaded the mower and went to work.

Krysta and I changed clothes, loaded rakes and shovels and drinking
water and followed.  We had the job of raking up debris, loading up
firewood for camp fires, walking around the house and emptying every
container that was full and overflowing with rain water. 

Ellis had to go do some mechanic work on Evan's car about then.
It wouldn't start.

Krysta and I were going to tackle a pile of rubbish behind the garage.
We moved a tarp that was growing into the ground, then I grabbed a
dust pan that was partly buried.  There was a black, slithery movement
in the hole.

I am happy to say we did not scream . . . I suppose part of the reason was
we remembered - in time - that we were in town and one can't just scream
for no reason in town where there are neighbors on all sides.

One nice neighbor who had loaned us a tool for yanking out small trees
was sitting on her patio enjoying the beautiful evening.  We didn't want to
scare her with shrieks and terrified facial expressions and flying skirts. 

On the whole it seems we handled ourselves in a
calm, cool and collected way.

We moved away from the area to a picnic table in the middle of the
lawn and called Deanne.  We even sat on the bench instead of on top
of the table which would have felt much safer under the circumstances. 

I was pretty sure it wasn't a snake because it looked very much like
a salamander that was in our wood pile once
-- in our basement
-- in the country.

Creepy crawly creatures live anywhere, town or country.

And then there are summer camping trips . . . 

Ellis told us the place where we are thinking of camping this summer has
rattlesnakes.  My mind must be processing this info because soon after that
I had a dream about rattlesnakes.

Do any of you remember that story in the Reader's Digest a few years ago 
where a rattlesnake crawled into an occupied sleeping bag?  This guy woke
up when he felt the snake exiting the warm bag in the morning.  I remember
the artist's picture of that scene.  That's what I dreamed about.

Again, I am happy to report, I didn't scream. 
Instead, I got up and got a drink of water then went back to bed
and told myself, "It's just a dream." 

. . . and fell asleep. 

Miracles still happen and I am thankful.

There's no need to worry about maybe one day
being called to move to a big city.
God will be with us where
ever He asks us to go.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Isaiah 55

I know there is a way to link you to the news report of the missing man from Austin MN who apparently fell into a swiftly flowing river in Idaho and has not been found. 

This is one of the things I still don't know how to do.   please don't laugh

Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family
and all of the friends and neighbors in our area.
The verse that keeps going through my mind is this: 
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not;
for God took him.  Genesis 5:24

And these verses:  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.   Isaiah 55: 8-9

This chapter in Isaiah is beautiful and one of my favorites.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Our God Is Sovereign

Today I heard of a village that was covered up by a landslide. 
Hundreds are dead.

In our hometown newspaper the front page reports
a 16 year old boy was killed in a car crash.

The same newspaper tells me a school friend from many years ago
is welcoming a grandchild into the family.

We have dear friends facing health problems. 
There is a new picture on their shelf of the
smallest great-grand-child.

On the news today in a town relatively close to us a young man was found to have everything he needed to set off mass destruction in his house, town and school.  Someone reported suspicious behavior and called in authorities.  Everything was discovered in time.

Tornadoes swept across the Midwest earlier this week . . .

A friend of our friends may have been swept away by a rushing river -- they have rescue workers searching on the ground and a helicopter flying overhead.

We are helpless.  He is the God of all comfort, the one who is with each of us at this very moment.

This is the Psalm I read this morning.

Psalm 103

King James Version (KJV)

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
21 Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.

All of this is too overwhelming . . .
-- too mind boggling
There is only one person to turn to.
That person is God, our Heavenly Father
and His Son, Jesus Christ
and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The windows on the bus

The windows on the bus go down, down, down . . .
In the winter it's no trouble keeping the windows of the bus closed
since arctic air is swirling around us.
The minute it starts to get the least bit warm students are begging
to open the windows.

"It's still cold!" I protest.

"But it's spring!" they wail.  "And we've been in a stuffy school all day!"

We had one week of 70* so the windows were down.

I reminded the students of two rules.
Please don't yell out the windows when we pass friends or foes out there on the side walk.
and . . .  Student will keep head and hands inside bus.

Otherwise we will lose the privilege of open windows on the bus.

I caught one guy happily sticking his face out the window and yelling to friends.

"Don't you remember the rule about the windows?"
Puzzled look on his freckled face . . . "No, not really."

"The one about keeping your head and hands inside?"

"No, I don't thinks so," as he rubs his head thoughtfully.

Oh come on!  I know this has been a long winter but does he expect me to believe that?

One afternoon I mentioned to some middle school students
that we had a couple of harrowing bus runs.
. . .  and they had missed out on it because they were gone a couple days.
Now they were riding again and it seemed like they were getting ready
to cause a ruckus all over again.
One student stared at me with wide eyes. 

I asked what was wrong.
It turns out this student misunderstood me and thought I was talking about
a very dangerous habit forming drug.  
"Look it up in the dictionary," I said, when they asked what harrowing
 meant.  They thought looking it up on-line would be much easier.  
A harrow is a frame with spikes or sharp-edged disks,
drawn by horse or tractor 
- used for breaking up and leveling plowed ground,
covering seeds, rooting up weeds
Harrowing - adj. very painful or distressing 
World Book Dictionary 
- to cause mental distress to; torment; vex
Webster's New World  College Dictionary
Maybe I was exaggerating to say we had two harrowing days. 
They weren't that painful or distressing.    
This episode reminded me of Anne Hobbs in the book, Tisha.
Anne was teaching school in Chicken, Alaska back in 1927.
One of her students asked why they have to all come to school at
the same time and all eat lunch at the same time. 

"How come you can't do things when you feel like it?"
"If everyone did it would be like a three-ring circus," I said.
"What's a three-ring circus?" Elvira asked.
"Well," I said,  "it's like a chautauqua, only it's bigger. 
It has elephants and clowns and ---"
"What's a shuh-tawk-wa?"Jimmy asked hesitantly.
I explained that a chautauqua was like a fair, only to have
Elvira ask what a fair was.  By the time I was finished nobody
really had any idea of what a three-ring circus was like.
They had never seen clowns, or jungle animals, or acrobats.
If I was going to cite examples I'd have to pick things they were familiar
with--gold mining and trapping, dog teams and hunting.
- end of quote

One day not long after this I was explaining to my students that
a bus is not a gym or a play ground.  They can't do acrobatic stunts
on the backs of the seats.
One girl slid across the aisle and sat on the seat beside her friend. 
"Debbie!* You can't turn the bus into a three-ring circus, you know!"

    hmmm!   did she just read my mind or what? 

* names have been changed


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sweet Sixteen!

Our youngest daughter turned 16 on the 30th of March. 
She is being very sweet and patient with us since we cancelled
"driving with the instructor" in the month of March. 
The roads were awful.
Driving in town was an adventure --
   especially residential areas
   high snow banks
   cars parked on both sides of the street
Many streets looked like one ways
when in fact they were supposed to be two way.
You had to drive slowly and wait your turn to get through some spots.

And, last but not least, our family was in the middle of planning a trip to Washington towards the end of March.  So I called the instructor and asked if there is a deadline we have to meet between class time and driving.  She was very understanding and, thankfully, there is not a deadline.

Sigh of relief from me.
Sigh of anxiety from Krysta.

She knows how many things get pushed to the back burner
never to appear again.
"Well," I told the instructor, "I will get in touch with you
when the weather straightens out."
"Ok,"  she said.  "I'll talk to you in June."

Krysta was not amused.

On the 30th of March my thoughts drifted back to another 16 year old.

February 1977
I was a mother's helper for a whole week.  Our friends had a little girl and a little boy when a new baby girl was added to their family.  I stayed at their house to make things easier.  My job was to make meals, wash dishes, take care of laundry, read stories to the little ones, help them with baths and getting dressed and taking naps. 

One day I baked bread all by myself from start to finish.  Looking back, I don't know how that was possible because my girls don't know how to bake bread.  (Dea knows how to make cinnamon rolls that are to die for.)

At our house Mom made bread once a week -- at least.  We bought flour by the fifty pound bags and stored the flour in a big tin "garbage" can.  Mom never had a recipe written down.  She knew it by heart. She measured the water and the yeast exactly.  Otherwise it was a handful of salt, a spoonful of lard,  a spoonful of honey, stir until melted in the hot water - then start dumping in the flour.  She measured the flour with a sifter instead of by the cup.  When she had the flour measured she let us girls stir until it was too stiff to stir then she added one more sifter full of flour and it was time to knead the dough. 

And that's how I learned to make bread - by watching Mom every week and eventually doing it by myself.

My girls are learning to make quilts from start to finish instead.
In home ec .. .. .. 
  taught by my mom.  =)

Back to the week away from home . . . I had my 16th birthday somewhere in the middle of that adventure.  My family and friends brought a surprise party to me.  They knocked on the door, yelled "Happy Birthday!" and served cake and ice cream all around.

Last night we had a birthday supper over at Evan and Chelsea's place.  Krysta, Chelsea, and Jorgan have birthdays close together so we've started having one big party for all.

Here is the menu:
Fried rice
Green beans
Lettuce salad
home made bread  (fresh from my mom's kitchen)
Cake and Ice Cream

And a Happy Anniversary to Dad and Mom
          who have been married 54 years!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

1966 Blizzard

Every now and then I try and figure out if this is the hard winter
as in The Long Winter  written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My head
gets too tired with all of that math so I soon give it up.  This is what
happened back in March 1966 in northern MN. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There's a smell of fresh coffee in the air as we sit at my parents round, oak table. Dad has brought the crackling brown newspaper from the file cabinet and we pore over it, coffee cups in hand. My finger traces the name, The Baudette Region, and the date, Wednesday, March 9, 1966. There are questions galore about that long ago day.
How could an airplane get stuck in a field?
How did you shovel all that snow?
Who brought the snow mobile to our place?
And the question that forever sticks in my mind . . .
do I remember this?
or am I imagining it because I've heard the story told so often?
My family lived in a little house a couple miles south of Graceton, MN. There were three of us girls. I was barely five, Ladina was almost four and Trenda would turn two in May. We had a copper colored cocker spaniel named Baskin. Baskin was the delight of our lives. We were thrilled with her family of puppies.
This storm blew in from the west, successfully shutting down the whole area. For two days snow fell and winds up to 45 mph whipped around the corners of our house. With 18" of fresh snow fall we weren't going anywhere.
To add to the excitement, the little people of our household were coughing and sneezing. Trenda, especially, had a deep hacking cough.
Dad stayed home from work Thursday and FridaySaturday morning was bright and clear. Dad started the enormous task of shoveling us out of a snow bank. Our green Volkswagen was buried under a mound of snow. 
Between sneezes, Ladina and I scraped the frost off the windows and pressed our noses to the glass. We watched the path grow longer and longer as Dad's shovel bit into the snow. Baskin frisked around, barking, long ears flopping; tail wagging, and generally making a nuisance of herself.
We ran to the door and opened it when Dad came in to eat breakfast. The wood in our cook stove crackled cheerfully, warming the kitchen where we gathered to eat. Dad hung his coat on the hook by the door and unbuckled his boots. He warmed his hands by the stove. He noticed Trenda pacing the floor instead of scrambling into her chair. Her face was gray instead of the normal rosy color.
After comparing notes with Mom, Dad made a hurried call to Dr. Brink in Baudette.  Thankfully the phone lines were still intact.  He described Trenda's symptoms.  The doctor's instructions were, "Bring her to the hospital today."  Today?!
That conversation set a lot of wheels in motion. Actually, I should say wheels and skis. Bob Griffen flew an airplane to the Skrivseth place. As he attempted to taxi from the field to the road the plane got stuck. Then Vern James came by snowmobile and took Mom and Trenda to Graceton. From there a snowplow cleared a lane on HWY 11. Douglas Grund took them to the hospital in Baudette in his pick up. 
Both Mom and Trenda had pneumonia. They ended up staying in Baudette for several days . . . Mom with Aunt Hellen and Trenda in the hospital. Dr. Brink told my parents Trenda wouldn't have made it through the night.
When I think about that day long ago I picture my dad bundled up in winter clothes, shoveling snow. I can see Baskin, the dog with floppy ears and a litter of pups.  Mom thought of bringing the puppies into the house. They were a distraction to us so we wouldn't run out and follow while Dad, carrying Trenda and breaking a path for Mom, waded through snow to the end of our lane to meet the snowmobile.  Before they started out they called Grandma and Aunt Leah . . . Ladina and I took turns talking to them on the phone. We described the wonders of our puppies to them.
Today, we can describe the wonders of our God who plans for our safety down to the minutest detail. Praise His Name!!
In the days before we could dial 911 there was a system up and running that helped people in emergencies . . . family and community. Our family is forever grateful to this community.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Our Field Trip

 --by Krysta Harshbarger

It was a clear winter night.  The stars sparkled in the sky. 
Our car was bumping down a dirt road.  Mom and I were going
to a hog barn to help Dad unload equipment.  This was a barn that
Mom knew well because the boys used to do chores there.  Little did
we know that something unexpected and hilarious would happen soon.

As we bumped down the road, Mom watched for the ninety degree corner
coming up.  I had no clue that there was such a corner until we missed it. 
We both gasped as our car flew off the road into a field. 
The corner was there, but we missed it.
Mom and I laughed breathlessly as we crunched over the snowy field. 
We drove a little way and then turned around and went back. 
Thankfully, it was a field lane and not a ditch we drove into.
I am grateful for the funny moments that God gives us. 
They help keep life not so serious.  God knows the perfect
time and way to show His love to us. 
It was a good day.
This is the second time I've missed that corner. 
(The first time was due to no brakes.
I told that story September 17, 2009) 
I'm the one who kept telling Krysta to slow down at corners this past summer . . .
and gasped when it seemed to me we were going too fast for the turn.
-- what can I say? 
All's well that end's well.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rainbow at the end of the tunnel

We have had a few adventures in the past three weeks or so.
(Besides tearing the room apart from stem to stern . . .)
A couple field trips and journeys to the past.
There will be a guest writer to tell you all about it very soon -
one of the field trips, that is.
One Saturday a few years ago we were doing a deep cleaning.
This poem was written by Krysta (age 9) in the middle of the jumble.
I found it again in the disorderly confusion of the current project.  With her
permission it is printed here with original spelling and punctuation. =)  
Rainy Saturday,
Gloomy gloom evrywher,
Cleaning, sweeping, sowing a dress.
Chewing down pankaces.
Boys go to town
Run out of gas.
The minutes fly past.
Out gos this
Out gos that.
Washing the sealing
and the flours.
Scrubbing up things
spick and span and clean
and we all started to feel mean.
A box for books
a bag for cloths. (clothes)
and a shelf being cleaned off.
As I look around the room
not much I see but gloom
Things piled on the bed
  on the desk
I hope there will be 
a rainbow soon.  
to:  dad
from  Krysta   age 9
Fast fwd to 2014
This school year I found some poetry books that were compiled
by Caroline Kennedy.  Poems to Memorize or something like that . . .
She shared some memories of her mom.  When her family asked her
what she wanted for birthdays, holidays, etc. Jackie asked for a poem. 
Caroline remembers many last minutes before the *big day* pouring
over poetry books trying to find just the right one, then copying
it in her best handwriting to give to  her mother. 
Jackie kept these treasures in a scrapbook.
Arrrgh!  why didn't I think of that years ago? 
I mentioned it in passing to my family and this is the result.
. . . . again printed with permission from Krysta.  
February 9, 2014
Dear Mom,
You wanted a poem,
From me to you.
But should I through books roam,
And find one that is true?
Instead I will write one,
I thought you would like that as well.
This should be fun,
But not much is ringing a bell.
There is one thing I want to say,
To you, my dear Mother.
I love you each and every day,
You are a jewel like no other.
I guess I am done now,
Though the poem, lame may be.
It finishes with a bow,
Or perhaps a curtsy.
~ Krysta Harshbarger

Monday, February 24, 2014


A gentle reminder from my sis-in-law . . .
"Where is the little shack in the boondocks?
It's been a few days since we heard from you."
To bring you up to date might take awhile so
pull up a chair and get comfortable. 
I had a birthday February 9th.  Ellis asked me,
"What do you want to do?
    Go to the science museum? 
           see what's on at the omni theater?
What about IKEA?  We can eat some of those Swedish meatballs?"
It was a snowy day with flakes the size of those paper snowflakes 
we used to make in grade school.  We hung them up everywhere to
help us remember  *it is wintertime!*
A day at home sounded better to me than anything else. 
"And what about that project we keep talking about?"
Renovating our bedroom . . .
It's been on the back burner for a few months.
Krysta and I started packing boxes of books and carting them out last fall.
We found out we are easily side tracked and that's all the farther  it  went.
Besides - we couldn't move that heavy furniture all by ourselves.
Here is a time line of this all consuming task that took over our lives.
Saturday -- emptied the room
Sunday -- rest and relaxation
Monday -- Ellis tore the ceiling out
Tuesday -- Hauled the boards home (car siding) 
-- parked pick-up outside bedroom
-- handed the boards in through the window one. at. a. time.
-- Ellis started putting the boards up one. at. a. time.
Wednesday -- continued putting up boards using bar clamps and other tools
to persuade them to go where they were supposed to go.
I was called on to help now and then.
I scrammed out of there when a bar clamp fell on my head,
"scrambling my brains just a wee bit" (a quote from my niece.) 
Thursday -- finished the tongue and groove car siding on the ceiling
- put foam board on the north wall
heard from our niece that company was coming our way.
We arranged to use a house next door for the company to stay in since
our house is topsy - turvy at this point in time.
Friday -- one of the nicest mid-term programs Maranatha chorus has given
at the First United Methodist Church in Austin MN.
Saturday -- Ellis took some needed rest from stress. 
He went to an auction sale.  =)
Jorgan came home from Maranatha Bible School. 
He took one look down the hall toward his bedroom and said,
"No, no! Oh no!"  We showed him to his new, temporary
bedroom -- Jeremy's old bedroom in the basement. 
He didn't even unpack . . .
just rounded up his equipment and went snow boarding.  =)
Ellis put up the wainscoting and wall board on the north wall.
Sunday --  rest and relaxation
Company came for supper.  We borrowed the house next door again
and had a wonderful time.
Monday -- SNOW  no school!  We were snowed in.  The four wheel drive
got stuck in our lane.  We escaped and drove to the neighbors where we
made breakfast for our company.  Ellis got the tractor going.
Two lanes got plowed.
Our company decided to risk bad roads
and hazardous weather
and make a break for home. 
After work we picked up a new box spring
 and mattress we found on Craig's List.  With much maneuvering
and squeaks and groans we took the old box spring and mattress out
and brought the new one in. 
For now they take up the floor space in our living room until
we are done with this project.
Ellis, Krysta and I put a coat of primer on three walls of the bedroom.
Tuesday -- supper with Evan in Blooming Prairie  
knitting class
Wednesday --  dinner out in Rochester
Thursday --  would you believe it? 
We have another snow day with no school. 
We woke up to the splash of rain on the roof. 
The roads were icy.  The snow didn't start until about 1:30 P.M. 
This storm is bringing a lot of snow
and blizzard winds with gusts up to 50 mph.
We painted three walls and prayed that our
electricity would stay on so we could heat the house.
These days when I wake up and look around my
kitchen/dining/living room/bedroom
I think about my grandma. 
She wrote this in a writing class she took.  --
            Pioneering in Minnesota
We built a small house, sixteen feet by sixteen feet. 
We used cull rough lumber and put tar paper outside and inside.
The total cost for two windows, nails, and tar paper was $18.70.
'A tarpaper shack!' you say.  "Hey, that was a castle, that was home!"
It had a  small wood cookstove, a little wood heating stove, 
wooden orange crates for cupboards, nail kegs with a board nailed
over one end for chairs, an old small table, a crib and a bed. 
Curtains?  Yes, from the printed sacks of course. 
We were cozy, we were home!
I look around this airy room and know there is insulation in the walls,
wiring for electricity, pipes to bring water in and pipes to carry water out. 
There is a propane furnace in the basement to warm the house,
an electric range in the kitchen to cook our food. 
Looking all around I know it is cozy,
it is a castle - we are home! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


December 2013 was full from start to finish. 
I don't know if we could have crammed one more thing in it. 
When Deanne was here she asked me if we should make *buckeyes*
which reminded us both of this story that happened a few years ago:

One cold December night I rushed out of the grocery store
and tossed sacks of food in my car.  Shivering, I started the
car and glanced over my shoulder as I began to back up.  That's
when I saw her -- Mary Lennox -- just as if she had stepped out
of The Secret Garden and was perched in the middle of the backseat
of the P T Cruiser parked next to me.  The interior light was on and I
recognized Mary by the sour expression on her thin face.  Yes, there
was strait hair falling in bangs on her forehead and eyebrows in strait
lines above her dark eyes.        

Her mom was twisted around in the front seat,
leaning back and *talking* to her. 
I thought about all the little girls across the country
with stressed out moms.  
All the moms giving "a talking-to" to their little girls . . .

And all for what?!

The mad scramble of Christmas 
-- shopping
-- baking
-- gift wrapping
-- cleaning

I started to pray for that little girl and her mom . . .
then for all the moms and all the little girls (big girls, too)
struggling in their relationships.  I had no idea I was praying for
myself at that very moment.

A couple hours later Deanne was going to finish the *buckeyes*
she had started.  She needed a bowl and asked if she could use my
green Tupperware bowl in the microwave.  It isn't microwave safe
so I gave her my double boiler.  I didn't think to tell her it can't go
in the microwave either.  I was washing the pan for the double boiler
when I heard the door of the microwave open.

  you guessed it . . . Deanne was taking the stainless steel double boiler out
of the microwave to stir the chocolate. 

And you guessed it again . . . I lost it

"You can't use that bowl in the microwave!"

Deanne was as cool as a cucumber.  "You never told me that. 
I'm sure it's okay."

In my delirium it seemed to me she was actually going to put the bowl
in the microwave again.

"Your dad ruined the microwave at Hog Slat by putting tinfoil in it!"

(Why do I always bring up past mistakes in the middle of another
totally different occasion?)

Deanne was sure I was mad at her.  I wasn't, truly I wasn't . . .
just sorry I hadn't thought to tell her that bowl wasn't microwavable. 
I said I was sorry for screeching and gave her a hug.

Then to top it off I glanced over Krysta's shoulder and saw her
homework problem.  (Ellis was helping her with Math.) 
She was writing  21x1=37 in her division problem. 

After coming unglued again I was kindly but firmly dismissed
from the room.  I'll bet my face was a perfect replica of Mary Lennox
about then.

I remembered the little girl in the car.   
The picture of someone outside looking in . . .
When I stepped back and looked at the whole picture
there was a funny side to the whole episode. 

That night when the house was asleep I wrote down the whole story
in my journal - and read it to Deanne, Jorgan and Krysta the next morning
on the way to school.

Deanne said,  "You're not going to send that to all your friends in an e-mail!"
I said,  "I'm the one who was a grinch. You didn't do anything wrong."

There's a little snapshot out of the past . . .

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!