Tell Me a Story about … a Pet!

          Have you ever had a pet? How many? What kinds? Was one of them yours alone? Were they just animals or part of your family?

          Pets filled my childhood. From puppies to kittens, hamsters to rabbits, turtles to lizards, even a raccoon and a couple goats. And we loved them—the ones we bought, the ones we claimed, the ones who claimed us.

 6-25-18 C         Several memories surface, one flying straight to the front of the flock. Remember when prizes for finding the “special” eggs at a community Easter egg hunt included livestock? And not goldfish in plastic bags. Chicks, ducklings, and bunnies topped the list … even colored chicks! (Which I hope they have outlawed now!)

          At one Easter egg hunt while still young enough to enjoy the treat, I found one of the marked eggs and hurried to the prize stand. Imagine my astonishment at winning a young rooster! In those days, they didn’t trade prizes, so the young fowl went home with us.

          My parents found a closed cage to put him in until we could figure out what to do. However, the solid sides with vents didn’t let me … or our three inquisitive dogs and one curious cat … see the little creature. Pitiful sounds squeezed my heart, and after shoving the other animals back, I peeked through the door. The dark interior showed the rooster cowering.

          Glancing to see my mom busy on the phone, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to open the latch and tuck my hand in to pet him, just to calm him and let him know I was there and wouldn’t hurt him. How could I know that little sliver of light would mean “Freedom!”

          The mayhem which followed still rings in my ears. One rooster, three dogs, one cat, and three kids created a hurricane force around and through the living room and kitchen! Feathers and squawks from the rooster, yips and yaps from the dogs, hisses from the cat, yelling from us kids, and screams from my mom, while trying to hold her hand over the phone so my grandmother wouldn’t hear the commotion and think someone was getting killed.

          I don’t remember how the frenzied but unharmed rooster (minus a few feathers) got captured and returned to the cage, but I do recall my mother putting her foot down and making me give my prize to a neighbor lady who raised fowl. I visited my rooster often. However, to my horror, on one of those intended visits, I found my rooster had become our neighbor’s supper the night before! 6-25-18 B

          From then on, the only roosters in our house came in the ceramic variety, such as this one waiting for my mom to paint it. So ends my rooster tale!

 *** Did you ever win a pet at a carnival or other event? Did your pet meet a similar end as mine or do you still have it? Share your story! Click on the words beside the date of this post. Scroll down to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

*** Watch for more “Pet” stories to come in future months! Next week, our word starts with the letter “G.” Hint: it follows the animal theme!

 

Tell Me a Story about … a Flashlight

Every child remembers his first flashlight. His thoughts may have gone something like this: How long do batteries last? How bright will it shine in my bedroom? I can read in the dark after I go to bed! Mom won’t see the light if I hide under the covers! How long do batteries last?6-11-18 Main

Although I don’t recall many different flashlights when I was young, today’s stores abound with them. Pink ones to delight a little girl’s heart. Camouflage for hunters. Some connect to keychains to shine on locks at night, and some include flashers to signal emergencies.

As for uses, giving light in the dark remains most important. Who wants to bump into walls and furniture while navigating at night to the bathroom?

And what about flashlight tag? What fun to stay up after dark, make sure our flashlights have fresh batteries, step outside, and turn off all other forms of light. Then, we walk quietly to hide—not running as in normal tag—while the person who is “it” listens. When she hears a noise, she switches on her flashlight and tries to catch another player in its beam.

However, my favorite memories come from spotting deer on vacation—driving back roads after dark, shining your spotlight over fields and deep into forests to catch unsuspecting deer. Mom sat in the passenger seat and used the regular spotlight plugged into the cigarette lighter. On the driver’s side, Dad used the power from his heavy, 4-cell, silver flashlight to spot his side. (Don’t worry, he was only driving five m.p.h. on dirt roads!)

Sometimes, Dad relinquished the flashlight to my brothers or me, sparking wars over which side we’d sit on each night: the passenger’s to maybe use the real spotlight or the driver’s side and get the chance to use Dad’s silver flashlight. And woe to the one who wound up in the middle seat!

I can still f6-11-18 Aeel the steely cold of that flashlight as Dad handed it to me and the chill from the rush of wind as I wound down my window. It took two hands to steady it while sticking it out the window to shine into the woods or fields. And what joy to spot a deer and shout, “There’s one!”

Although Dad told us not to waste our batteries, we tried to use our own flashlights to penetrate the darkness, but their beams only reached the edge of the road. By the time we returned to the cabin, they gave off only dim light, and disobedience didn’t usually warrant new batteries.

Just like me. If I fill my inner light with power from God’s Word, I shine brightly, and others can see Jesus in me. But if I go my own way, trusting my own “batteries,” I grow dim, and His light is hidden from those who need it most. But just like my dad, God smiles at His wayward child and opens a “fresh pack,” giving me the power to shine my light, His light, once more.

*** Did you ever have your own flashlight as a child? Did you use it to read at night? What happened when your batteries ran out? Tell us your story! Click on the words beside the date of this post. Scroll down to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

*** What pets have you loved throughout your life? Any unusual ones? Let’s share about our pets in next week’s blog post!

 

Tell Me a Story about…an Anniversary

          Our first daughter, Holly, born six weeks premature at a time when that meant serious threats to an infant’s survival, developed faster than the doctors predicted. She spoke her first words at five months and complete sentence soon after. Each developmental check-up showed her vocal and motor skills surpassing not only the current-age-minus-six-weeks’ norms but zooming months ahead of her actual age.

          What does this have to do with a story about an anniversary, you ask? Most people scoff at these claims I make of Holly’s early achievements vocally, however, my mom and dad’s 25th anniversary brought the truth in a harmonic way.

          Around the time of Holly’s second birthday, my brothers and I ramped up our plans for a surprise anniversary party for our parents. We invited family and friends, suggesting monetary6-4-18 C gifts to go toward a special gift. Our parents never had a honeymoon, never went away by themselves, choosing family vacations instead. We set up an anniversary trip, even called our dad’s work in secret and scheduled his vacation time. I made reservations at Heritage USA in NC, ordered a AAA triptik, and arranged to stay with their dogs for the week.

          I like to think we surprised them with the party, but if not, the planned trip did the trick. (Note: the photo is from the day of the party, my dad holding Holly.) As we helped them pack their car to leave, Holly chattered and sang songs, including her favorite— “Jesus Loves Me.” I sent money with my parents to purchase a singing doll advertised at Heritage. A tiny plastic record inserted in the doll gave her a voice, and the one I picked sang Holly’s favorite song.

          Upon their return, my parents gave Holly the doll. She oohed and aahed over the doll’s curly red hair and pushed the button over and over to mak6-4-18 (2)e her sing. At just over fourteen months, our preemie daughter sang along with her special doll, only having a little trouble keeping up with its speed. (Note: the photo is not of the one we had. Holly’s is long gone!)

          Years later, we know why God gifted her so early with a voice. He wanted Holly to use that voice in service to Him, and she has in many ways. Never doubt the gifts God gives and His timing, no matter how unusual they may seem.

 *** Do you have a story to share about a special anniversary—yours or someone else’s? Or if not, do you have a special gift which showed up early in your life or a family member’s? To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Scroll to the bottom of the comment section to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

 *** As I write this, my brother is vacationing at a cabin in Potter County, PA, my favorite place on earth. I wonder if he remembers the flashlight we used for a special purpose there when we were children. Next week, I’ll tell you about it!

Pen

When Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” in 1839, he knew the power the pen had to write words as dangerous as a weapon or as healing as a hug. I pray my pen’s power will always side with the latter.Pen B

For me, the individual pen itself holds an interesting power. Ask my husband about my love affair with pens. He discovered early in his job for an office products company that bringing me a new pen gets him bigger kisses than a whole bouquet of roses! And he does it often—from pens promoting businesses for which he services copiers to a whole pack he somehow gets Santa to leave in my stocking every year. Black ones, green ones, red ones. Fine tips, ball points, gels. Even a whole box of green Sharpie markers to use when making posters or correcting papers.

My favorite pens always write in fine point, black ink. I love the feel of its flow across a blank journal page. It glides with the precision and artistry of a figure skater on a Zamboni-smoothed ice rink. I keep a stock of the refills for these pens handy so I never have to lose the beauty I find in their tips.

A few years ago, our youngest daughter, Faith, bought a very special pen as a gift for me. The barrel hewn from cherry wood has a cross etched into it. This pen rises above others because of the words engraved on it: “Gotta have FAITH!” This phrase hits a sensitive chord in my hPen Aeart, speaking of my faith in Jesus as well as spelling my daughter’s name.

Last year, I discovered a new use for my pens, one I enjoyed long ago through years of writing to my pen pal, and now love a new twist on it—letter writing! The idea sprang from the movie The Letter Writer, released in 2012, in which one of the main characters writes notes to people he doesn’t know, letters to lift their spirits, given randomly as he feels led. He tells his young protégé, “Within every human being, there’s a God-given ability that, if you find it and nurture it, you’ll be able to bless the lives of others.”

Mine lets me use the power of my pen to heal, to help, to “bless” those He leads me to. A handwritten note left on a windshield in a store parking lot; another given to an unsuspecting person putting groceries in her car. What a powerful tool my pen can be!

This is for you, Aunt Connie! With love.

*** Do you use a special pen to write journal entries or grocery lists? Do you still handwrite letters, with today’s media-driven messages so quick to send and receive? Tell us about the pens in your past and/or present! To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

***Join me next week for a story about a special anniversary, since our 39th anniversary will come at the end of that week!

 

Butter

Mmm … butter! Anyone who says he enjoys using margarine or any of the other spreads on his fresh-baked biscuits speaks a falsehood. No substitute complements food as butter does.

Butter B (2)        Over the summers while my husband went to college in Columbus, we went to the Ohio State Fair. One vendor offered corn-on-the-cob, still in its husk, roasted over coals. After paying him what we’d have paid for a whole dozen at a roadside produce stand, one of the workers grabbed two blistering hot ears off the grill-work and yanked the husks down to form handles. Grasping the husk-handles, he turned back to the pit and plunged the naked ears into a large kettle. As he removed them, the yellow kernels glistened. Rivulets of butter ran down the ears, dripping onto the husks.

Holding both in one hand, the man seized a stack of napkins and thrust both handsButter A (2) toward us. He nodded his head at a small stand holding several shakers of salt and pepper. Eyes wide at what we’d just seen, we hurried to season our corn and dig in, not wanting to miss a single droplet of the melted butter.

It only took one bite of the golden delicacy to know we’d never tasted anything as fine as those ears of corn-on-the-cob. Though taking care as we did, we ended up wearing butter smeared on our lips. With our slippery fingers working to hold onto our prizes, even the tips of our noses sported a drop or two.

Though the hot kernels singed our tongues, we gobbled away, typewriter-style. Licking the rows above and below, licking our slick fingers, licking our dripping wrists where droplets trickled toward our elbows. We didn’t stop in gratitude for our sleeveless arms, nor for my ponytail keeping my hair from disaster. We only munched across our ears, slid the make-believe return bar across, and went on to the next section, until at last, we stood slurping the remnants of the glorious butter from the emptied cob.

Somehow, that memory would not bring the sigh of satisfaction it does if those roasted ears of sweet corn had been plunged into a bucket of melted spread or sprayed with a bottle of liquified flax seed. Wouldn’t you agree?

God made cows. He made the milk we get from them. And He showed us how to skim the cream which separates from the milk. Then He gave us the know-how to churn it into butter—glorious butter! Mmm!

*** What food do you think of first when butter is mentioned? Corn-on-the-cob, as we had? Fresh bread just pulled from the oven? Tell us about your favorite way to use butter! (And if you’re one of those who only uses the “other stuff,” I guess you can share about it, too!) To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

** Did you guess “Butter” as the “B” word for this week? What letter would you like to see next week’s word begin with? Help me choose!

Walking – Part 2

          By the 1990s, we had returned to mountains of PA, begun our family, and started our homeschool journey. Walking added much to our phys. ed. class.

          A 5-day program built muscles in our bodies and brains. Mondays held long leisurely strolls along our road; Tuesdays, a brisk heart-pumping walk (not a favorite of mom or kids). Wednesdays, we identified wildflowers and Thursdays, we picked up trash. Fridays, we walked with friends or family wherever we were.

         These walks became our Walk-Across-America program! Each time we walked, we noted the mileage with different colors on a chart. We’d marked the distances to places we wanted to visit, such as the Statue of Liberty. We never made it to most of those goals, but we enjoyed trying.

          5-14-18 AThe next walk starts with a question: have you ever been on a bear hunt? One day during our unit on bears, we read Blueberries for Sal, made a trail mix bears would eat, and created toilet-paper tube flashlights. After supper, we gathered our supplies and courage and went into the woods to hunt for bears.

          Daddy led the way in the lessening light. The girls got gooey from bits of chewy fruit while I brought up the rear watching for a bear. Sure enough, around a bend, I spied one in a tree! The girls gasped and pointed their flashlights. It was a brown bear, and across the path in another tree, his white twin sat snug on a branch. Within moments, girlish giggles filled the air. Unknown to them, Daddy had snuck their teddy bears out of the house and hid them in the trees. That walk made history for the Mayfields!

          With the new century, a seizure disorder often kept me housebound. Walks became fewer and shorter, although sometimes the best things are right down the road. Less than a quarter mile from our house, my husband and I enjoyed watching a barred owl baby learning to hunt. From a tree about ten feet away, the fluffy owlet peered at us. We held our breath. When his parents whistled, he turned towards their warning, then his dark eyes found us again. An amazing twenty-minutes later, he flew off. Not much exercise on that walk!From 5-2016

          Finally, with the seizures gone and the owl grown, the current decade brought a new dog and grandchildren! Walking became a joy once more. Of course, pushing a stroller again doesn’t come as easy as a couple decades ago! Still, I need to strengthen more than my walking legs to keep up with these kids!

*** Have you ever seen amazing animals or interesting places on your walks? Tell us about one or two! To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

*** Next Monday, our story word begins with a “B.” Any guesses? It’s not balloon or badger, nor banana or blue. What could it be?

Walking – Part 1

          To someone who thinks horses should come equipped with seatbelts and to whom a bicycle still needs training wheels, walking is a joy. Peace and fitness, solitude and companionship, moonlight and cool breezes. Let’s walk through almost six decades together and see where it takes us!

          We’ll start in the 1960s, most of which I spent walking the brick sidewalks of Harrisburg, PA. We often visited one set of grandparents a street away. This took us past a corner store, where my brothers and I pressed our noses against the cool glass of the candy case. We placed our nickels on the wooden counter and made our choices. So many scrumptious candies tempted us: marshmallow-topped ice cream cones, colored liquid-filled wax bottles, candy necklaces. We clutched our tiny bags full of delectables and trotted the rest of the way, with a promise of one piece when we got there. That part of the walk always seemed so long; I wonder why ….

          During the 1970s, we spent summer vacations in the mountains of Potter County, PA. Ah, long walks along forest trails … crawling over falle5-7-18n bug-encrusted trees, slipping on moss-covered rocks, brushing spider webs off our faces. But oh, the vistas we reached overlooking valleys and glistening brooks. And my favorite reason to walk the woods–the wildlife: deer flicking their white tails and racing through the hemlocks and grouse taking flight when we startled them. My heart thrills whenever a forest path shows up, even in photos.

          For two years in the 1980s, my husband and I lived in a development on the border of Columbus, OH. Evening strolls around our neighborhood or one of the metro parks became our lifeline to sanity. We walked our cares away, holding hands, straining to ignore the hustle, focusing on the moment … or was that holding our dog’s leash in both hands, straining to keep her from chasing the numerous squirrels teasing her, fo5-7-18 Bcusing on keeping her from dropping “presents” in anyone’s yard?

          The trail in our favorite metro park bordered Ripple Rock Creek. While walking these parks built within the city limits, we could forget we lived so near downtown. We couldn’t hear the noise of the highway. The creek, named for its rippled rocks, filled our country-loving souls with a sense of home. We even brought one of the rocks back with us as a reminder of this little place of peace.

 ***We’ll have to continue our journeys next week, but for now, where have your walks taken you? Please take us along on one … or more! To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

 *** Next Monday we’ll see how the onset of serious health issues almost destroyed my joys of walking. Join me and see what we found on another walk—a bear hunt!

Coffee

         Ah, coffee. One definition could read, “Liquid relaxation served in a cup or mug.”

          Most of us have tasted it. For some, the bitter brew left a longing for an ice-cold cola. But for the rest of us, coffee became our mainstay to sanity.

          What memories does coffee awaken with its fresh-brewed aroma? A quiet sunrise accompanied by a steaming mug and a donut? Or the relief of a cup at work on a much-needed coffee break? Maybe an after-dinner coffee sipped while reading?

          When I think of coffee, I don’t smell it or taste a certain flavor. I don’t hear the percolator or feel warmth radiating into my bones. When I think of coffee, I think of people.

          Through sharing hundreds of cups during my coffee-drinking career, I’ve seen tears, heard tales, joined in laughter. Memories swirl: my husband bringing a cup just when I needed it most, my dad surprising my mom and me with a pot of decaf, my brother’s knack for making the best coffee around, which I can’t do even mimicking his every move.IMG_0022 - Copy

          Maybe you think of one specific person whenever coffee is mentioned. For me, that’s my grandmother.

          Oh, it wasn’t the coffee itself, though she did brew a good cup. Nor the adored china teacups we used. I recall the stories. My grandmother was a storyteller. Allow me to share one of my favorites.

          My grandmother fell in love with a set of dishes on sale at Bowman’s Department Store and hinted at my grandfather about her upcoming birthday. As it approached, she knew she’d receive the treasured dishes. Sure enough, on her birthday, a Bowman’s truck pulled up to the curb. She raced to the door and yanked it open. There stood the delivery man, smiling and handing her two brand-new clothes props. (People used these to “prop up” the clothesline to keep drying clothing from touching the ground.) Snatching them with a huff, she planned the attack for my grandfather when he returned home.

          As she walked away, the bell rang a second time. She reopened the door to see the same delivery man, this time bearing a box containing the coveted dishes.

          Coffee and love became synonymous when I saw my grandmother’s smile as she remembered this tale. Over the years, she shared pieces of her life through stories told over a hundred cups of coffee. Invite someone to share a cup of love with you today!

 ***I’d love to read your coffee-cup tale! To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

 *** Stop by next Monday to read how a pink poodle bank and a $5 bill saved a young couple!

 

Green

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          Green. The color green. Some see waving grass, towering evergreens; others a wallet filled with money. And a few think of emeralds or jade.

          Although I love God’s creations of grass and trees, when someone mentions the color green, I think of spaghetti and my niece Stephanie.

          While in her teens, Steph decided to try making spaghetti sauce from scratch. She put tomato sauce, garlic, and other seasonings in a pot. However, while adding the latter, the shaker top of the oregano container popped off and a half cup dumped into the sauce. She tried fishing some out, but the sauce still ended up quite green and a tad bitter as her father testified later.

          For fun one day soon after this catastrophe, when Steph joined us for supper, I made spaghetti, but when boiling the pasta, I added several drops of green food coloring. (Try it! It’s fun! We’ve even tried blue and orange.) The noodles turned a lovely shade of velvety green.

          Steph laughed when she saw her plate and said it looked very Christmas-y with the red sauce on it. We grabbed a Santa cap, stuffed it on Steph’s head, and told her to hold the plate of green and red spaghetti and pose for a picture.

          “Tilt the plate a little,” my husband said, holding the camera.

          “Like this?” Steph replied and turned the plate completely vertical. The spaghetti slid off the plate, sloshing to the floor. Silence filled the room, as we watched spaghetti noodles and sauce pool on the floor, seep between the cracks in the vinyl chair seats, and run in red streaks down the cupboard doors. Steph stood with the empty plate in her hand and looked from her cousins to me to her uncle.

          We all held our breath, sure we’d hear a roar. (Sometimes, my husband doesn’t appreciate messes!) But soon, a laugh started, followed by girlish giggles. Then we all howled until our sides hurt. Eventually, we cleaned up the spaghetti, but the memory of that laughter has lasted much longer than the chairs with the spaghetti sauce stains.

          I like to think about what Jesus would have done had He been sitting at our table. I feel certain I know.

 *** To share your favorite “green” story with us, click on the words beside the date on the line below the title to this post. Then scroll down past the other comments to find a box at the bottom with the line, “Leave a Reply.” I’m excited to read your stories!

 *** Stop by next Monday to read how coffee became synonymous with love for me!

Mud

Mud. No other word draws all five senses together in such a short moment. See it ooze between tiny toes. Hear it squish as bare feet smush into it. Feel it cool and grainy, wet and slippery. Smell its fresh-after-the-rain fragrance. And taste? Why, mud pies, of course, fed to unsuspecting kid brothers and ever-loyal canine companions.

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            To me, mud tastes like a tomato sandwich, slathered with butter and coated with sugar. The problem began with the fact that this delicious concoction never filled my stomach without a second helping.

            One sunny afternoon, as most teens are wont to do, I lazed in my backyard while eating my first tomato sandwich of the season. The fresh tomato juices mixed with the creamy butter and slid down my throat. The grass, sparkling in the sun, needed mowed with all the rain we’d had recently. Dad would get to it over the weekend, but for now, it soaked through my canvas sneakers as I pushed the swing to and fro.

            Suddenly, the desire for another sandwich, the tomato juicy and the sugar thick enough to chew, beckoned, and with a holler to my mom to please start making one, I ran for the house. In my eagerness, I forgot about the constant mud by the door. My wet sneakers didn’t allow me to slow down, and I slid the last several feet, trying frantically to stop. I did stop, after I crashed through the plate glass storm door into the kitchen. I lay there, sprawled on the kitchen floor, while glass cascaded around and over me. I picked myself up, dazed but miraculously unharmed except a few knicks on my arms.

            Mud. What scenes does it pull from memories long-buried? Maybe a free-for-all mud fight in a neighborhood park. Could be a tire stuck in six inches, getting deeper with each rev of the engine. Or how about rain splashing in a blessed puddle after a long drought. See it, hear it, feel it, smell it, and if you dare, taste it.

            When our senses tingle from an experience, we feel alive. We have a concrete relationship with the event. Maybe this thought caused Jesus to choose to use mud when He healed the blind man, even though He needed nothing to create this miracle. Mud – I can feel it; can you?

 Share your “muddy” story with us in the comments below.