Category Archives: family

Would YOU Remember Being Spit on by a Llama?

 

I reported last week that my teenage writing career was jumpstarted by interviewing my nearest neighbor, a local Langdon, ND farmer who bought two llamas. Yea, that was big news for a weekly newspaper in a town so small the gossip about you arrived home before you did. While reviewing my old newspaper article, I kept getting this strange sensation to call the farmer’s daughter and ask, “Hey Liz Anne, do you remember when your Dad’s llama spit on you?" 

But that’s kinda’ lame.

After all, being spit on by a llama isn’t really big news, except in Langdon.  I bet the farmers that visit the bakery each morning to talk about crops, weather, and local news gossip are still talking about the Quam’s llamas as they roll dice to see who pays for the morning’s coffee and donuts.

Llama Spit

I double-dog dared myself so I wouldn’t chicken out.

It was easy enough to find Liz Anne after all these years. I didn’t  make a long-distance call  to information (555-1212)  or call someone from Langdon. I used a search engine, found Liz Anne, and learned she’d lost both her parents. My resolve to call grew from curious to personal.

I poked out her number on my cell phone and pushed send. Her spunky voice and friendliness transported me back 33 years in time. We chatted easily, catching up on the decades concerning schooling, marriage, kids, and careers. We both went through cancer. We’re both still writing, except she’s smarter – she’s a Professor at Moorhead State University in Moorhead teaching Public Relations Writing. In other words, she probably doesn’t stay in her jammies most of the day.

When I expressed my sympathies about losing her parents she said, “They were "an astounding couple not to be matched." Her admiration and love for her parents increased the grief I felt for her loss.  We reminisced about her parents, and she said, "Did you know my Mom shot at my Dad?”

 

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(A country road near the Little Pembina Ranch, typical North Dakota summer scene)

I hadn’t heard that story, or I would have written another article for the newspaper.  Being shot at is way more exciting than being spit on.

Liz explained that as newlyweds, her parents, Don and Geneva, had moved to her family farm, the Little Pembina Ranch. The two college-educated people were a little bored living alone on the prairie farm so close to Canada. One day Don came home after working in the field and found Geneva sitting on the front porch with a loaded .22 lying across her lap.  She was known to be a good shot, so Don wasn’t initially surprised.

Until Geneva lifted the gun and said, "Dance, Don, or I’m going to shoot.”

Don laughed, but didn’t dance.

Geneva shot. She warned again, "Dance, Don, or I’m going to shoot!”

She shot again, “I’m going to shoot until I run out of bullets."

Don danced until the gun was empty.

Life on the farm was never boring for the Quams after that, it was filled with hard work, laughter, family, pranks, friends, love, community service, and neighborly deeds.

Liz and I caught up to the point of the call, the sheep and llama adventure.  She said her parents ventured into sheep, in addition to the grain, because they had been a money-making venture for farmers for a few years. She took off the spring quarter of college to help, arriving home to a herd of sheep and the two llamas.

 

Two Llamas

 

"Those llamas were perfectly worthless as far as predator control, because they were no good at keeping coyotes away," she said. The strategy was to have one llama on each end of the field, but the llamas always stayed together.

The llamas a failure and so were the sheep. Soon after Don and Geneva ventured into sheep, the market tanked and the Quams eventually lost their family farm. When generations have lived and farmed the land, losing the family farm is more than losing a business. It’s losing your heritage. Sometimes settlers were born and  buried on their land. It’s a tie that goes deeper than mere tradition.

But, happily-ever-afters aren’t just for fairy tales, they sometimes happen for farmers. An aunt died and left money to Don and Geneva, and they bought the farm back. Even though I heard the news years later, I rejoiced with Liz.  We both know too many families who permanently lost their farms.

Liz’s kids grew up spending the summers on the farm learning skills city life doesn’t quite teach you, and spending the time with the crazy Grandpa who once went 140 miles per hour with a college-age grandson in his little Mercedes because "someone was trying to pass me." She lost her mom, Geneva, to Alzheimer’s, and cared for Don in her home for his final four years.

She inherited the farm after she lost her parents.  With the tenacity of her ancestors, she decided to farm. A city-dwelling professor during the school year and a country-living farmer by summer, she  manages the baby farm of 500 acres of the original family farm. She hires someone to do the planting, and dreams of adding an orchard to the blank spot of canvas in North Dakota that’s hers.

And for the finale you’ve all been waiting for, yes, 33 years later she did remember the spitting incident and said, “It was vile!” She hadn’t provoked the animal, she only walked up to it, but went down in Langdon history as the only person spit on a llama.

After catching up,  I think she’s wrong thinking her parents are “not to be matched.” I see the spunk, brains, and beauty of her mother, and the work ethic and humor of her father. 

She’s Don and Geneva, minus the llamas.

Why Seattle Shuts Down When it Snows Two Inches

When we moved from the Midwest to Washington ten years ago, our first winter felt balmy.  We ran around in capris and flip-flops, our new neighbors shivered in parkas, the kind I hadn’t worn since daily trudging a mile across the University of North Dakota campus in blizzard conditions.

On the average, WA was 60 degrees warmer. It was like being on spring break all winter long. 

 One Sunday in January someone from our church called.  “Church is cancelled today.” 

We were shocked.  We’d never heard of cancelling church.

“Why?” my hubby asked.

“Did you look outside?”

Hubby pulled the curtain aside and saw a dusting of snow on the ground. He asked, “Yea, so why did you cancel church?”

Our friend repeated, “Did you look outside?”

“Yes,” answered my husband, “but why did you cancel church?”

“There’s snow on the ground.”

“Yea, I see the snow, but why did you cancel church?”

“Because there’s SNOW ON THE GROUND.”

We laughed.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  After all, we survived the winter of 1996-7 with 117 inches of snow (that’s nearly TEN FEET, people!) and the interstate shut down 13 times, followed by  the Red River Flood of 1997.

We laughed for a few year years, until we finally understood how and why 1/2 inch of snow is treacherous in our new climate and terrain. 

 

 

Seattle and Snow

1. People don’t have snow gear. 

If you shovel once every couple of years, why would you keep a shovel? I piled my shovels, scrapers,  and snow blower on the sidewalk with a free sign when I moved, I use a pancake turner on my front porch.  Seriously.  I use it smugly and wisely. My library card scrapes my car windows.  I’m very happy with this arrangement.

Obviously, my new neighbors don’t have snow blowers or a blade on the front of their pickups. Wait, most don’t have pickups. The cities don’t have garages full of snowplows that run on a regular basis.  Being unprepared is frustrating, but spending money you don’t have on equipment you rarely use isn’t tax money worthy.

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Sidewalks and streets aren’t cleared.  Maybe I should loan the city my pancake turner.

2.  The hills are treacherous.

  Two nearby hills  are so steep that only a guard rail come between a sliding car, and the houses below.  Most hills don’t have guard rails.

Not a stunt driver. Don’t try this next time it snows.
Actual footage. The sliding bus happened more than once. Mute if you don’t like the music.

North Dakota  is extremely flat.  You slide forwards or sideways, or into a small ditch you could drive out of and not tell your parents.

3.  Many drivers aren’t experienced in snow driving.

I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about them.

Even ND drivers drive into  ditches or “accidentally” spin a cookie.  But people in snowy climates have six months a year to perfect their winter driving skills, not six hours or six days.

Many Seattleites didn’t grow up with parents who taught them how to drive on snow, ice, snow on ice, black ice, slushy snow, and slushy snow on ice.  Add  wind speed, air temperature, and visibility to multiply the weather conditions winter drivers master.  

In the Pacific Northwest you learn to drive in overcast with rain, overcast with fog, overcast with occasional thundershowers. 

4.  Front wheel drive doesn’t work on slippery hills.

No  amount of “I think I can, I think I can “  will get you up the hills without the right vehicle, tires, and ability.Many people don’t understand how front wheel/rear wheel/four-wheel drive works, so they just head out.  Yea, we see SUVs in the ditches, too.

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Others know it’s better to walk up the hill in dress shoes, than slide down in your car. (Review #3 if you are still confused.)

Parking overnight is common, but so are car pile-ups on the bottom of the hills.

5.  People Wanna’ Play

When it snows, you stop and play.  Almost every snowfall makes snowball snow, can you believe it, Midwesterners?  It’s amazing.

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My neighbors, Rick and Sandy,  sculpted this amazing Seahawk.  Actually, Rick did most of the artistic work, we “coached” him.  I provided some pictures,  a few shovels of dirtless snow, and the food coloring, but they included me in the picture, anyway.

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There are forts to build, snowballs to throw,

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and snowmen to create.

BEST FACEBOOK POSTS  ABOUT SNOWimage

Kathy –  Facebooking on my front porch and enjoying the snow and also the cars trying to get up our hill.

Vanessa – Please oh please, please stick around until morning, snow!! (We must be the only place on the continent who WANT snow right now).

Sonja – I realize this will NOT be exciting for my friends and family in Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut, etc., but IT IS SNOWING AT MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW!!! It almost never snows here!! I love it!

LouAnn – It’s a beautiful snowy day in Lacey, WA! Hey! It can happen!

Marilyn – Measured 3-1/2″ so far – yippee!! Hot tub here we come! Love soaking while snowflakes falling

Laura – IT’S SNOWING!!!

Linda – Dreams do come true, Snow is not a fantasy.

Kathleen – I have to say… my aim with a snowball is pathetic, now. More opportunities to practice, please!

Living with six months of snow can be drudgery.  You’re always shoveling, bundling up, warming up, scraping windows, and surviving.

When it rarely snows, it’s a gift to be enjoyed. The morning after our Glorious Snow Day, the rains melted our snow creations into memories. 

That’s the main reason Seattle shuts down for snow. 

Making your home sing Mondays

 

My Husband is The World’s Most Ridiculous Dad

flashback friday

In 2005, we had the privilege of having four, yes  four, count them, teenagers in our house at one time. We thought it would be cool having  six kids close in age so they’d  be friends.  Even if we’d done the math and calculated we’d have teenagers for almost 20 years in a row, two or more teens the majority of those years, we wouldn’t have changed anything. We just might have prepared ourselves a little more for the changes ahead.

When the girls outgrew wearing  Mommy-chosen clothes and wanted to express their own personalities with clothes that were actually in style, it was painful for both sides of the generation gap. Those years of adorable matching outfits sewn by Mommy were definitely over. They had to  wean Mommy from her expectation that her daughters would love her 80’s high-waisted, put-your-socks-on-first jeans.

Daddy, who loved his lovely daughters, but didn’t want the boys to notice how lovely they were,  squawked like a good Daddy about their clothes.  He would have preferred black garbage bags or burlap sacks, because his daughters were his treasures – treasures he wanted to keep buried.

After several discussions, we came to a family understanding.  We didn’t want set rules, because rules stir up theRomans 7 desire to break the rules. We didn’t demand  denim skirts and tennis shoes, but we didn’t want them to dress like Hollywood starlets.   We came up with guidelines. Their clothes had to pass a few inspectors along the way.

1.  The Lord – were they God-honoring?  We tried to instill in our daughters that as Christians they  belong to Him and their life decisions should reflect that. We gave them to opportunity to make wise decisions based on their own faith and conscience.

2. The parents – could we stand their choices?  We didn’t have to like their clothes, but we couldn’t hate them. We gave them leeway  to choose and relieved them from the expectation of looking like us. However, if their conscience didn’t guide them enough, we had veto power.

Daddy’s wisdom in discussing  until we came up with guidelines that pleased everyone paved the way for an easier transition into those years of raising  teenagers. We were encouraged to see the tasteful, stylish clothes the girls chose in their freedom.  They were so good, they started picking out my clothes and providing guidelines for clothes that are flattering  and appropriate for my age. I dressed them when they were young, now they return the favor. 

In 2005, several years after the monumental Introduction of Modern Styles into our household,  Daddy still wasn’t convinced about  low-rider jeans. Usually a seriously minded Office kinda’ guy, the hubbster is known for having occasional outlandish moments that the kids talk about for years and years.

The kids laugh themselves breathless then exclaim, “Oh, Dad, you’re SO ridiculous!”

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This was one of those moments.

He decided to prove how ridiculous low-riders were by trying on our oldest daughter’s jeans.

In front of the whole family.

On Thanksgiving Day.

Not knowing someday I’d be a blogger and reveal all.

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After tugging and pulling and giggling, he got them up this far. (Maybe hubby was  the style inspiration for  teenage boys?)

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Like today’s teenage boys, he found they had to be peeled off.

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But, he wasn’t young and agile, he was an old man losing his balance.  He  humbly begged for help so he wouldn’t fall and break a hip.

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My early digital camera was poor quality, but the blur proves we were busting a gut.

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Toddler Baby can’t figure out why Daddy needs help.  She doesn’t need help.   She dresses and undresses all. by. herself.

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Maybe Toddler Baby is wondering if she should hide her clothes from daddy.  Maybe she’s wondering if he’s going to try on her clothes when she’s a teenager.
Maybe she’s wondering if she even wants to become a teenager.

This episode only proved one thing  – it wasn’t the jeans that were ridiculous.

My children have always declared they have The World’s Most Ridiculous Dad. 

As they mature,  they peel off the memories of their Dad’s ridiculousness and see his wisdom underneath. It’s then they finally understand how treasured they are.

Making your home sing Mondays

I Should Have Passed a Note

Writers see a blank piece of paper or computer screen as an emptiness waiting to be filled.  It’s not alive until our words cover the area in a literary dance. The blankness beckons something deep within that needs to be released.

Artists must feel the same way about when beholding a blank canvas, seeing an exciting possibility for their creative  explosion of paint,  inspiration, and talent.

Children prefer  natural expressions, with less structure and rules.  A blanket of fresh fallen snow is often their favorite medium awaiting creation.

They shuffle, build, and tunnel, forming caves, towers, snowmen, paths, and messages.  Snow can become anything and take them anywhere in their imagination.

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Playing in the snow is no longer a playtime activity for kids, it’s now a recognized art form.

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The snow artist, Simon Beck, sees a field of newly fallen snow as an emptiness to be filled.

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He shuffles to create stunning images, nearly Geometrically perfect.

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Each design takes about 10 hours to make, using snowshoes, a handheld orienteering compass, and pace counting. 

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Then, he posts the images and allows anybody to use them for free. 

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I was  fascinated by his talent and his generosity with his pictures. But  when I saw to this picture, it reminded me of a time when my shuffling in the snow produced a very different result.

I was a 7th grader at the Helena Junior High, a time of angst and crushes. Those same feelings had accompanied most of us through elementary school, too, but  in junior high there were dances and dates, and we keenly felt the expectation that it was time to act on those crushes.  We advanced from kicking or chasing the boys we liked on the playground, to more mature behaviors, like passing notes in the hallway.

By late fall, I had a crush on a kid named Kevin.  Because we both had long, blonde hair, hey, it was the 70’s,  I thought we needed to be a couple.  My last  name ended with a B and his with a C and since our teachers were obsessed with alphabetical order seating charts, several times a day he was very near. 

But, he was very, very shy, and I couldn’t eke out a smile or a blink from him, despite soulful stares down the aisle of Mr. Beveridge’s classroom.

One morning I was trouncing across town to get to school, ya’ know back in those days when you walked everywhere regardless of traffic or weather, and  my heart was too obsessed with my crush to notice the white snow that had covered the  world overnight.

Until I got to the little hill above the junior high football field. There was a beautiful, white rectangle of sparkling snow awaiting my artistry. The vast blankness needed to come alive with a literary dance.

Inspired, I eagerly plotted my course and made my way to the canvas, where I began shuffling my feet to form block letters.

I thought I would leave an innocent message of love in the football field. Since it was at ground level, I didn’t think anybody would be able to read it.  Only me.  People walked by and asked what I was doing, but  I refused to answer. I wanted to keep my crush a secret.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…… “I L-O-V-E”

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle….”K-E-V-I-N”

Artwork completed, I  headed to my locker across from my first floor homeroom class.  I was surprised to hear kids teasing me about Kevin as soon as I entered the building.

Duh. Duh. DUH!  Kevin’s homeroom was on the second floor.  While shuffling in my black snowmobile boots with the fur-lined hood of my parka pulled up around my face,  I hadn’t noticed classmates gathered in the second-story windows, laughing and pointing.

My secret message wasn’t so secret.

The public declaration so humiliated him, he was still red during our English class  a few hours later.  It took a few days for the snow to melt my embarrassment  and the junior high chatter to focus on someone else. He never did  talk to me.

One good thing about those dumb junior high moments in my day that today’s kids don’t experience – nobody took a picture.  Nobody revealed my angst on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.  I wasn’t publically humiliated for more than a few days, then it died down.

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After that, I gave up snow artistry and let the blankness of notebook paper beckon any messages that begged to be released.

 

 

CLICK TO TWEET: If you would like to share my story of junior high angst with this ready-made Tweet, feel free.

 

My literary dance left my heart in the snow.Tweet

 

My Daughter “Swears” Like Her Father

Once upon a time, my husband was fresh out of college and taught at a private Christian school.  Although we’d been married over a year and had our first child,  we weren’t much older than the 19 year old seniors, so tried hard to maintain a sense of maturity and dignity.  We had high ambitions for impacting the academic and spiritual lives of our students.

One fine day, my husband was called into the principal’s office.  Surprised, he sat down and watch the principal’s face contort and turn red as he delivered a message.

“I had a phone call from a parent regarding your behavior,” he began.

“Really?”  My husband couldn’t begin to imagine what crime he’d committed.

“Apparently, you swore in the classroom,” explained the principal with twitching lips.

“I Swore? But, I don’t swear,” explained my husband.  It wasn’t a standard adopted for the classroom, it was a personal standard he lived by. He wouldn’t have sworn even if he had smashed his thumb with the proverbial hammer.

“Well,” said the principal, “you used a word that’s highly offensive to a family and they called me to complain.  They insisted I speak to you about your classroom behavior.”

Worried he would be given his walking papers, my husband asked, “What did I say?”

“You used the F word,” the principal spoke and refused to let my husband defend himself.

He continued,  “You used the word….fff…fff…FART!”  With that he gave up trying to hold back his emotions and laughed so hard his office chair squeaked on its wheels.

With relieved laughter, my husband promised to never use the F word in the classroom again.

I think we forgot to teach this valuable lesson to our children.  I found this old worksheet from one of my daughters, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Beka's Poetry 001

Yep, a chip off the ol’ block.

Time Treads on Steadfast and Silent Feet

Time treads on steadfast feet.  It never changes its pace, but continues on, unchanging and unbending to the world.

It doesn’t speed up through pain, loss, or grief. You can’t fast-forward through circumstances you cannot change and must endure.  You can’t freeze a moment to  embrace the love, joy, and peace.

We learn to use those moments wisely, enduring the pain and storing up the joy as those moments continue to march into an unknown future.

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Time treads on silent feet.  There is little warning of what the next moment will hold.  One moment a loved one is breathing, the next moment they aren’t. Then, we’re appalled that time dares to continue on, when our hearts are frozen with grief.  Moments painfully unfold without the presence of that loved one.

Time treads on supine feet.  It’s neither wise nor foolish, happy nor sad.  It doesn’t cause or heal pain.  How you use your time makes it your friend or foe, it’s a commodity for you to use wisely. 

In 2013, as with many families, we suffered sorrows and joys.  Just before Christmas, we buried my beloved 99 year-old Grandma.  Three months prior, one set of cousins buried their mother, another set buried their father. Even though we gathered with broken hearts, there was joy in being together, in comforting one another, and in renewing relationships.

Everything Has Its Time
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

3 To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

We’ve been given the gift of time, a new year to face with hope.  What will you do with your gift? Use it wisely, because time treads on silent and steadfast feet.

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!