Monthly Archives: December 2013

Good-Bye, 2013!

This morning my husband admitted  he was thankful to say goodbye to 2013.  He’s the stable one in the family, the glass half-full man who walks steadily by faith through the valleys and the mountaintops. If he’s ready to bid the year good-bye, it really was a hard year. 

In fact, that was part of the reason blogging has been so sporadic for me this year, funerals, illnesses, and other heartaches have interfered with my time, my schedule, and my heart many times.

However, sorrow and joy always mingle together, so we try hard to remember the times of joy, and grow in grace through our sorrows. 

To close out the year, I wanted to share the Top Ten Blogs of 2013 my readers enjoyed. 

10.  My Courage Failed

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A look back to a time of discouragement.  I was flying home to a beloved family, but leaving behind an Innocent Man who had been sentenced to jail.

9.  Ten Things to Look for in The Perfect Man

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A challenge to the unmarried and a reminder to the married.  Can your relationship survive The Bed Pan Test?

8.  I Am An Old, Old Mommy

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As a toddler, my 6th child was confused that other mommies looked more like her big sister than her mommy.

7.  Why I Had Kids Not Dogs

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Tongue-in-cheek reasons why a dog never resided in our home, even though I live in an area where there are more dogs per capita than children.

6.  The Sweet Gospel Message -Vacation Bible School Idea

 

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Sweet ideas for sending a treat and the Gospel home with children who attend Vacation Bible School.

5. The World’s Most Famous Teenager

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(postcard from Anne Frank Huis, foto by Frans Dupont, in honor of Anne’s 80th birthday, June, 2009)

What childhood reader didn’t cry through The Diary of Anne Frank?  It was my first exposure to the horrors of World War II.  My husband and I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It wasn’t a tourist destination, it was a life experience.

4.  I’ve Eaten Rattlesnake

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My 7th grade homeroom teacher was a Vietnam Vet who impacted my life in many ways, including my culinary appetite. This blog post was featured on Freshly Pressed by WordPress, an honor that earned this badge below.

It’s kinda’ like a merit badge for bloggers. It was almost as exciting as eating a pet snake.

3. Best Answers to Big Family Questionable Questions

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This was in follow-up to my #1 blog post, “Things I Would Never Say to a Parent of Two Children.” The comments were so hilarious, I featured my readers in this post.

2. When Gramma Lost her Marbles

Mindy and Gramma Geneva 1993

Laughter and tears are two reactions to unchangeable circumstances. This post was a visit back through my Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, when I became known to her as only “The Lady with the Kids.”  I was blessed that this post was shared through Facebook support groups all across the world, and I was able to laugh and cry with others as they shared their personal stories.

1. Things I Would Never Say to a Parent with Two Kids

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I wanted to recap what it was like to be the mother of six children, highlighting all the inappropriate comments that were made in front of my children.  I took the opposite of things I heard frequently and wrote a post.  I was astounded at the reaction. To date, I’ve had 43,119 visits to this blog post.

What I’m most grateful for with this post isn’t the number of visitors, it’s what I learned from the reactions to this post.  As beautiful women poured out their hearts in the comment section about their lives, I learned that women in all circumstances have to deal with rude and painful comments from others, just as I have done. 

Above all, I was blessed that women would so openly share their hearts.  Whether they agreed with me or not, they entrusted me with their experiences and their pain.

As I evaluate these top ten posts from 2013, I see the representation of all the things that are dear to me, the Lord Jesus, marriage, mothering, extended family, and my upbringing. And I was reminded of the many joys I experienced through the year.

I was also struck with the encouragement my readers have provided through this year.  Your comments, prayers, and private emails have blessed me and upheld me during the hardest times when each keystroke in telling the story has been a dagger of pain.  Several times I even wondered if I should quit writing, and one of your dear readers would send just the perfect encouragement to help me press on in my calling. I am incredibly thankful for each of you, you are my support, my strength, and my friends.

May this coming year bless you with joy unspeakable and the ability to find joy in all your sorrows.

Happy New Year!

 

The Lord’s Plan Unfolds

This is the second part of a tribute to my friend, Kari. It isn’t her complete life story, she was impacted by many friends and relatives she cherished.  It’s a small view into her world through my experiences, which at times are fuzzy with time and grief.  If you didn’t read part one, please go back and read:

And I almost killed her once.

Kari and I were thrilled to find each other again!  We later joked what others  thought to see two cars pull up to the thrift store, four people politely chatter as they merged toward the door, then two women suddenly bear hug.

Kari and Tony

She proved her hat wasn’t an adaptation to Montana fashion, where people aren’t  in style or out of style, you’re free to wear your own style. Standing on the sidewalk, she removed it and proudly showed me her scar where a brain tumor had been recently removed.

And she smiled while she told me about her cancer.

Her big “I can take on the whole world” smile. The “I have enough joy for the rest of you” smile.

We moved into the store, talking, laughing and sometimes shopping.   When it was time to part ways, we did what people did before cell phones. 

Kari's Address

I handed her the tiny black binder in my purse to write down her address.  I had no idea how precious this scrap of paper would become.

Our families spent a day at my parents’ cabin, swimming, snacking, climbing trees and enjoying Montana’s scenery. Kari and I talked non-stop.

We were in the same crowd in high school,  but each had our own closest friends. We filled in the gaps of the years. College years. Falling in love and staying in love. Becoming mothers; she had four kids, I had five at the time. I shared how I’d trusted Christ as my Savior. In all our conversations, intermingled our marvel at the Lord’s timing. The reason He’d spared our lives in high school was beginning to unfold.  It was for such a time as this.

Inevitably, we talked about high school. Regrets. Broken hearts. Tormenters. Friends.  Accomplishments.  She shared heartaches that made me admire her strength and joy anew. I regretted  not knowing or helping, worried she’d shouldered life alone. She assured me her best friends in high school had upheld her. The strength of their love and loyalty graced the rest of her life.

I shared my pain of moving from Helena and relived the stir I’d caused on the first day of 8th grade.  During registration, I’d walked across the gym, our entire class watching from the bleachers,  straight to the Industrial Arts table to sign up for shop. Since I already sewed my own clothes, did laundry, babysat and cooked meals for my family of eight, I didn’t need Home-Ec. I’d already had one year of woodworking at Helena Junior High, and was excited to move onto bigger projects. Following school policy, the teacher refused admission. When I was politely adamant and explained my reasons, he called in the principal and the superintendent for support. At that moment, I knew my career at that high school wasn’t going to be stellar.

“I remember what you were wearing,” said Kari. Her smile overcame the  chemo hair standing in tufts on her head.

“What?” I was consumed with my tale of discrimination and moving into the Dark Ages and she was consumed with my clothes.

She recounted my walk across the gym floor from her admiring point of view. “You were wearing gauchos and a yellow t-shirt with your name on. After that, I begged my Mom to drive me to Grand Forks to buy gauchos.”

When the summer of 1999 approached, Kari asked me to go to our 18th class reunion/ all school reunion with her. I said no. Actually I said, “NO WAY! WHY WOULD I DO THAT?”

High school wasn’t good to me.  For five years I was teased, my locker ransacked, books knocked out of my arms in the hallway. Lies were spread until I wondered who to trust. I got in trouble for things I deserved; I took the punishment for things I didn’t deserve.

Several teachers used me as their verbal punching bags, to a point where one student pulled me aside in the hallway and advised, “I think you should get a lawyer.” I thought movie caricatures of tormented high school kids could have been based on my life. Miserable, I tried to graduate early. The guidance counselor refused. I stuck out my entire senior year.

That same guidance counselor called me into his office that spring and asked me to give a graduation speech. I refused with the clichéd  laugh in his face. He was surprised because nobody had refused this “honor” before.

I had nothing to say and nothing to prove. I only wanted out.

He wanted to know why. “I don’t have anything to say to anybody,” was my answer based on my mom’s advice,  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  My friend Chris, who had always dreamed of giving a graduation speech, was elated to be given the honor.

Kari wouldn’t give up. She wanted to go, but didn’t want to go alone. My selfish hoarding of bad memories was only broken when she finally said, “Mindy, I won’t make it to our 20th.”

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(Kari is far left, middle row, in pink t-shirt)

Kari arranged for some of the class of ‘82  to meet at a home with spouses and kids. Later we joined the rest of the class downtown.

I was stunned when my greatest tormenter was the first to greet me with a hug. Three people said, “Oh, you graduated with us?” My impact on some of my classmates wasn’t as great as the impact they’d made on me.

With each conversation and renewed acquaintance, I replaced a bitter memory with a better memory.  I counted my tormenters to be fewer than my friends, they had only talked louder and made more of an impact. No, I had allowed them to make more of an impact. I also learned that those who inflicted the most pain probably hadn’t meant to. We all were suffering and surviving the halls of high school.

Over a pizza later, I admitted she was right to make me attend our class reunion. I thanked her for pushing me.

She smiled her Kari smile.  She knew all along she was right, and I was finally admitting it.

For me, the reunion was the beginning of a new beginning.  For Kari, it was the beginning of the end.

to be continued… 

 

 

Defying the Enemy Called Death

 

We have some interesting sayings in America when someone dies before they’re old.

He died too young.”

Only the good die young.”

She went before her time.”

We have this unspoken expectation that everyone should live a long, healthy life.  That’s the ideal we long for, but it doesn’t take long on earth to realize it doesn’t work that way.

Check tombstones.  Some live one year, some live a hundred years. Death is not a stranger to any soul.

All people live.

All people die.

Yet, no matter how much we know this, we’re never prepared.  We recover, but don’t stop grieving.  We never fully understand. Death is a shock, an enemy, a divider.

 

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This picture was taken May, 2011, when I visited the grave site of high school classmate and friend, Kari Onerheim Etherington. If you knew Kari you knew her smile.  What many of us didn’t know was the cost of that smile.  Without airing her family laundry, Kari had struggles at home that many of us didn’t know until she was an adult.

She walked around the halls of LHS as if she were the happiest teenager on earth, and she wasn’t faking it.  She CHOSE it.

 

Kari's High School Picture

She bore her struggles with quiet strength and a smile.  She was contagious.

And I almost killed her once.

I wasn’t a Christian in high school and was on a road trip in Canada with some friends, including Kari.  We had crossed from North Dakota into Canada where the drinking age was only 18 and had been in the pub for hours celebrating senioritis.  When we left, I was driving, but shouldn’t have been.

We missed one border crossing and were looking for another one that stayed open longer. We knew we had to just keep driving east, but nothing was familiar and we didn’t have a map.

I was jolted out of my stupor when the car bounced over rocks, obviously off-road.  I slammed on the breaks, the car lurched and tottered, but stayed put in park.  I got out of the car and looked down a very steep embankment.  In the darkness of the night and my alcohol-stunned mind I never  knew if it was a valley or a river below.  It was very steep, very deep, and very black.

A man was standing next to the car.  I assumed at the time he was an RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer.  He was kind, kinder than I deserved.  He didn’t issue a ticket, only instructed how to get back to the road we needed to be on. I was stumbling, woozy and out of control.  He urged me to drive more carefully.

As I looked down that embankment, then back into his kind face, I was overcome with a Sense that wasn’t attributed to my drunkenness.

I knew at that moment that God had saved me for a purpose.  He had spared my life and the lives of my friends.  It was the first of many instances that year that proved to me the God of Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, was personally interested in my life and was concerned about my body and soul.

Somehow we made it home that night, and though we giggled as teenagers do over the evening, it was mostly to cover up the uneasiness I’d felt over the Presence and the near death experience.

That fall I was a freshman at the University of North Dakota and began reading the Bible.  I understood by faith that those things in my life were actually called sin by a Holy God who demanded perfection.  Since there wasn’t sinless perfection in my life, His Son had died in my place.  I accepted that by faith and experienced a serious life change.  I was born-again by faith.

During the early 80’s, few of us had computers, there were no cell phones and long-distance phone calls were expensive, unless you called after 11pm.  It was too easy to lose track of friends when you went to different colleges, got married, and had children. After I married, I moved to Kansas and was in touch with very few of my high school friends, but thought of them often and prayed for them. We eventually moved back to North Dakota, but I hadn’t reconnected with everybody yet.

In the summer of 1998  I was visiting my mom in Helena, MT, and we were in town shopping.  We pulled up in front of the Salvation Army at the same time another couple was parking and exiting the car.  We chatted politely as the woman wearing a floppy hat tried to tease me into buying a teddy bear in front of the store.

When we made eye-contact, we were both stunned. 

 

It was Kari and her husband, Tony. 

 

Kari and TonyThey’d been living in my parents’ hometown for several years. 

The reason the Lord had graciously spared our lives was about to unfold.

 

To be continued…

 

THAT DAY

There are some days we commemorate, but they are not holidays.

They are memories.

Painful memories.

The kind of memories that sear the heart and soul.  You may find relief, encouragement, help and strength, but you will never, ever, forget. THAT. DAY.

Eight years ago today, my husband and I lost a child to miscarriage. I had this weird notion that someday I would "get over it." I thought maybe I wouldn’t have those bouts of weeping, the longing for the child who is only a spirit in my mind.

I see her little blonde head running after her big sister, even though her legs never ran.  I see her at the dining room table scribbling with crayons, even she never held one in her chubby little hand. I hear her little voice singing and jabbering, although those words only appear before the Throne.

She become the Lord’s before she ever became mine.

Our youngest child at the time, Rebekah, was a toddler when she lost her baby sibling and was confused by what was happening.  For weeks we were planning for a baby, then mommy went to the hospital, then there was no baby, and then mommy cried for weeks. We tried to explain, but it didn’t make sense to a little girl who wanted her very own baby.

Once she cried out, “What did Jesus need our baby for?”

I don’t know.  I didn’t really have an answer then, and I don’t really have an answer now.  But, I choose to trust Him.  I choose to love Him. 

We hadn’t publically announced our pregnancy yet, because I had just finished radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer and was in the hyper hell stage of treatment, where you take enough thyroid hormone to suppress the cancer, but not enough to kill someone in a hormonal rage. It’s a fine balance between fighting cancer and staying sane. I found out later you have less than a 50% chance of ever having a normal pregnancy again after this cancer treatment. Not many knew of our pregnancy, not many knew of our loss.  I wasn’t trying to hide it, it was a pain too deep sometimes to bring up in casual conversation.

The Lord all too well understands the loss of a child. In Proverbs 30:15-16, He tells us that are four things that NEVER stop their devastation.

"There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”
The grave,
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”

When the grave holds  what belonged in your womb the devastation is double.

And isn’t it amazing that all four are all treated with water? Drought and fire are saturated with water from the Heavens. The empty heart and the empty womb are saturated with Living water from the Heavens, which is the written Word of God, the Bible.

After eight years, I’ve realized I will never “get over” the loss of a child.

Today I was grieved, but alone. Others don’t remember the date, rightly so, it isn’t their heartache. I keep from being overcome in my grief by knowing that many, too many, of my close friends have the same days of remembrance in their lives.

They have the same missing person feeling when they sit down at their dining room tables.

I grieve and commemorate.  When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He gathered the little children in His arms. Rather than dwell on my empty arms, I comfort my heart by picturing  my little darling in the arms of Jesus. I lost a child, but created an eternal worshipper, one that is with the Lord Jesus.

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(This is a book Rebekah and I wept through several times.)

 

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No sooner came, but gone, and fall’n asleep,
Acquaintance short, yet parting caused us wee;
Three flowers, two scarcely blown, the last i’ the’ bud,
Cropt by th’ Almighty hand; yet is He good.

With dreadful awe before Him let’s be mute,
Such was His will, but why, let’ not dispute,
With humble hearts and mouths put in the dust,
Let’s say He’s merciful as well as just.

He will return and make up all our losses,
And smile again after our bitter crosses
Go pretty babe, go rest with sisters twain;
Among the blest in endless joys remain.

Anne Bradstreet

Becoming a Character Who Creates Unforgettable Characters

 

I’m always amazed that talented authors will share their writing secrets.  For free.

I  attended a few sessions of the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland, WA in November. Image tables of books, hordes of writers and workshops with all the information you need to become an overnight best-selling sensation.  OK, everything is true except that last part. I made that up because we all have that dream, right? 

Success doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen quickly.  Writers must always learn, grow, and improve. 

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My Cool Tool for today was shared  by Darlene Panzera, author of several titles including the Cupcake Diaries, in her workshop “Building a Novel.”

Novelists should  develop unforgettable characters that become friends with the readers and become a part of their favorite memories. The task shouldn’t be too hard for a people group considered by others to be “characters.”

Darlene said, “Great characters have impact on the world around them and cause change in others.” Those changes become subplots.

Darlene Panzera

To develop her characters, Darlene creates Character Cards. Each main character has their own colorful card with pics and critical details. That way you don’t accidentally change someone’s eye color, the name of  your heroine’s cousin,  or the kind of car she drives.

She provided a list of details that can be included while creating your characters.

Name:
Age:
Job:
Role in Story:
Archetype:
Single/Married/Divorced:
Hair:
Eyes:
Face:
Build/Figure:
Imperfections:
Mannerisms, Habits:
Self Image: I am __________
How do Others View Character?
Brief Past History:
External Conflicts:
Internal Conflicts:
Strengths:
Weaknesses:
Biggest Fear:

What will be your character’s arc over course of story?  How will character   grow, become wiser or change?
What motivates character?  (Core value)
Goal: What does the character want?
What is the character’s problem or need?
How does she feel about it?
Why must character reach goal, come to decision, or find new insight?
How does character view others?  Attitude?
Who are friends and why?
Who are enemies and why?
Where does character live?
Home – Interior and Exterior:
Education?
Religion or lack of it?
Favorite food/color/music?
Vehicles?
Hobbies/interest/special skills?
Pets?
Most embarrassing incident in past?
Best thing happened to them?  Worst?
What influences of history would bear directly and indirectly on the character’s daily existence?
What are the major events or attitudes in the character’s life that have made him react to life in specific ways?
What is their family like? 
How much influence do they have on the character?
What is their favorite spot in home or town?

After you’ve created your characters in your imagination, they may take over in ways you hadn’t imagined.

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Readers live vicariously through believable characters and overcome obstacles, heal  hearts, and fall in love.  And, when they close the back cover and step back into their real worlds, they’ll bring those experiences with them.

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A collage is another visual Cool Tool Darlene has used. This is great start for the brainstorming stage of your novel. Cut and paste to create the world your characters will live in, using news headlines, locations, cars, houses, hobbies, and bits of interesting dialogue. It spurs on creativity during each stage of the writing process.

Imaginary friends aren’t just for children – they’re unforgettable characters created by novelists.


Cupcake     Cupcake p. 2

For further study:

My New Breakfast of Champions

 

Experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

A healthy breakfast starts the day out right and prevents that mid-morning slump. Since 1933, General Mills has promised that eating a healthy  breakfast can make you a Champion.  Their slogan inspires and sells.

As parents, we’ve repeated this expert opinion and bought those cereals. We’ve given the breakfast lecture repeatedly and freely advise how to make this a lifestyle commitment.

 

    • Get up early enough to allow time to eat.
    • Keep breakfast food on hand so you’re prepared.
    • Choose simple breakfast options so you’ll follow through.

 

We need to set a good example.  We need to fill up in the morning so we have the energy and ability to carry on until noon. A hungry mommy can be a crabby mommy.  Along with traditional healthy breakfast options, I keep my pantry stocked with dried fruits and nuts. I’ve tried a variety of breakfast casseroles, quick breads and instant options. There’s always a quest to make a healthy breakfast faster.

 

 

After friends visited Colombia and brought me a present, I have my new favorite ethnic breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast of Champions

 

This is MY favorite Breakfast of Champions, what’s yours?