Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just a Few Clues Here Today ...

Today my writing can be found at the blog Two Teens and Their Mama, where my friend Lana asked me to do a “guest post” for today.

I'm not going to give a lot of clues, but what I wrote about involves:

blackberries
and 
a beach vacation
and 
quite possibly even a recipe!

I hope you will click on this link which will take you right to my post on Lana's blog.  Once there, I recommend you take a good look around.  Two Teens and Their Mama is one of my favorite blogs, and I suspect you will enjoy it as well!

Before you go, please leave a comment here - what is your favorite kind of berry?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Encounter With an Electric Fence

On July 19th, a post about fireflies was published on the blog, Two Teens and Their Mama. Reading it reminded me of a long-forgotten moment in time.


Fireflies

Every few years my family would travel to Pennsylvania, to visit my grandparents farm and spend time with our relatives. My sisters and I always looked forward to catching fireflies, because they did not exist where we lived in Alberta.

My twin sister and I on a tractor ride at my grandparents farm.

Electrocuted!

One evening, when I was about ten, my cousins, sisters and I were catching fireflies and playing hide-and-seek outside at dusk.  It had rained that afternoon and although the grass was very wet, I was barefoot.  We had been warned repeatedly about the current of the electric fence line that corralled the cows, but in the excitement of the game I forgot all about it. Running quickly, I did not see the fence in the dim lighting, and ran right into it.  I felt a sensation of being grabbed and shaken, then was thrown to the ground.  Awareness of what had happened dawned slowly.  I checked myself all over to be sure I was alive - had I just been electrocuted?

Guilt

Slowly, I made my way back to the house and into the bathroom.  Under the light above the sink, I discovered some abrasions (burns?) on my arms and face.  I felt guilty about not heeding the warnings about the fence, so never told anyone what happened.  I was always very careful of the fence after that!


Guest Post

I have been asked by Lana, the blogger at Two Teens and Their Mama, to write a guest post for her blog.  She plans to publish it tomorrow and I hope you will visit her blog to see it. While you are there, be sure to read her firefly article and spend some time browsing Lana's wonderful blog.  I think you will enjoy it every bit as much as I do - and Lana's writing may even trigger a few memories of your own!

Have you ever felt guilty about getting hurt, because you did something you were warned not to do?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My AHA Moment - and I Missed It!

An Invitation!

On June 25th, I received an interesting email.  It was from a woman named Rachel who works for the company that produces the Mutual of Omaha's Aha Moment campaign.  In her email, she stated that she had come across my website (this blog!) and she “couldn't help but think” that I “might have an aha moment to share.”

Her email continued as follows:
For the 5th year, we’re taking our 34-foot Airstream mobile film studio on the road again for the 2014 Aha Moment Tour, visiting 20 cities across America to capture inspirational, life-changing aha moments from folks all over the country. We are headed to Great Falls, MT on July 21st and 22nd and would love to invite you to share an aha moment, and how your life has changed since. It can be about your work, your family or other life experiences. You would just have to step into the Airstream studio for a few minutes and tell your story on film to our tour producer. Your video will then be posted to www.mutualofomaha.com/aha, where you will be able to share it with your friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter!”
I was so excited!  Not only because she had stumbled upon my blog - but because she surmised from it that I have lived an interesting enough life to have had a least one “aha moment”!  I swallowed my fear of appearing in front of a video camera, and accepted her invitation to share my aha moment.

My appointment was for last Tuesday.  I became nervous, as the date approached, but I had purchased a new blouse to wear, and I was determined to go through with the experience.

Fate intervened.

My poor car!  

I mentioned earlier on this blog that my daughter and I were recently in Portland. On our trip home, my car died in Spokane.  Died.  It wouldn't even budge, and the diagnosis was a need for a new transmission. I will spare you all the details - but the short story is that there was no way I would be able to show up for my Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment appointment on time. I had to cancel. Although I had been anxious about the experience, I was none-the-less very disappointed.

I think our lives are made up of many aha moments. After this past week, I can identify a new one.

In recent days, it has seemed as though many things have gone wrong.  I won't list them all, but here are a few of the scenarios:

Car trouble - 300 miles from home:

My daughter and I had been enjoying our time in Portland, and left there so late that it was 2:00 am when we arrived at the hotel where we had reserved a room in Spokane.  My car showed no sign of any trouble, until we were within about 500 feet of the hotel parking lot and I heard a strange noise.  We were able to drive into a parking space - and then it refused to move again.
I am grateful this car trouble did not occur on the Interstate, in the middle of the night. We were finally able to rent a car to return home, and we have received wonderful service from AAA, the towing company, and the Spokane and Helena service departments. 

A potential flood:

This past Saturday I happened to noticed our automatic sprinkler system had sprung a major leak at the backup valve on the side of our house.  My husband was out of town, but I turned the water off, and called to make an appointment to have it fixed.
Fortunately the leak was easily fixed today.  I was told that we had been very lucky our basement hadn't been flooded.

Different car - more trouble:

Within an hour of my discovery of the sprinkler leak, my daughter called me after stopping for gas, while driving our other car.  Once she filled up, she tried to start the car - and it wouldn't.  “Here we go again,” I thought. I found keys to the loaner car I am now driving and went to help her out.
Fortunately, I was able to borrow jumper cables (ours were in transit somewhere between Spokane and home) and a nice man even kindly volunteered to help us use them! The car started, and all it needed was a new battery ... which felt like a minor expense today in comparison to the fear of another faulty transmission!

My latest Aha Moment:  

  • When it seems like nothing is going right, it helps to realize that circumstances could always be so much worse.  
  • There really are a lot of nice and helpful people in this world.
  • When you write a blog, even an inconvenient experience can be viewed as a photo opportunity!

Maybe the glass really is always half-full.


Definitely half full!
It is too early yet to tell if this week's experiences will actually change my life - but I am hopeful I have learned to be a little more willing to see the positives in any situation.

Would you accept an invitation to the Aha Moment Tour?
 What would your aha moment be?

Note: I have received no compensation of any kind from Mutual of Omaha and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Glittering Shoes and Shadows: The Papalo Cure (Part 4)

A few weeks ago I began using the Words for Wednesday Challenge from Delores at Under the Porch Light to create a story, The Papalo Cure. Readers commented, requesting to know what happened to Grandpa after Maria got on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't know! His fate is at the mercy of the weekly Words for Wednesday word prompt!

Using the prompts, I have been adding to the story - and even I am surprised by the turns it has taken.


This week’s chapter can be read without background information, but I recommend reading the proceeding parts first. Start with Part 1: Facing Insurmountable Odds.  A link for each previous chapter is on my FICTION page. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.
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Glittering shoes and shadows

Grandpa stripped a handful of papalo leaves from the plant, chewed, and swallowed them. He commented that they didn't have as much flavor as he remembered; Maria assured him it was probably because the plant was wilted after traveling so many hours. As soon as he felt he had eaten enough, Grandpa fell back to sleep.  When the surgical resident arrived  a while later with the consent forms for surgery, he awoke and signed them willingly. 

Later, as Maria and her grandmother waited for news of how the surgery was progressing, Maria's brother Mateo and a woman burst through the door to the room.  The woman's hair was piled high on her head in an intricate bun, glittering blue eye shadow was smeared heavily on her eyelids, and there were sparkling stilettos on her feet.  Her attempt to look vogue was spoiled by the sheer blouse and pencil skirt she was wearing. Her bra was too small and too tight, and portions of ample breasts spilled out the low neckline and sleeveless armholes of the dress.  A spanx undergarment might have smoothed her skin, but since none was worn, every dimple of the woman’s cellulite showed through the too-tight skirt. What completely ruined her appearance however, was her scowl and the menacing glare she directed at Maria.

“Are we too late?” Mateo said.  He must have run up the stairs, as he was sweating and breathing hard.  “Grandma, did grandpa eat that plant?  Is he okay?”

“Of course he ate some, Mateo.  You know he believed he needed it, to be strong enough for surgery.  He's just sleeping now.  You need to stop worrying – Maria told me you think she is trying to poison Grandpa.  Of course she wouldn’t do such a thing!”

“Oh Grandma,” Mateo groaned.  You are so naive. She is playing you both, to get what she wants.”

Maria clutched her fists in anger, but bit back her protest.  Grandma ignored Mateo's comment.  Instead she asked, "Who is your friend and why is she here? Are you going to introduce us?"

“My name is Cynthia Engleworth,” said the woman, extending a limp hand to Grandma. “I am a private detective.  Mateo hired me a while ago, to find out what Maria is up to - and I think my findings will surprise you.”

“This is insane!  Mateo - we need to get you some psychiatric help! - - ” 

Mateo cut short Maria's protests.  “Just hear me out Grandma.  Please listen to what I have to say.”

He continued, “Grandma, how closely did you examine that plant?  Do you know for sure that it is papalo?  Please look at it now, and make certain.”  Mateo had spied the freshly watered, but still wilted plant on window sill, and he brought it over to his grandmother.

She looked down at it, and then gasped.  Slowly, she picked a leaf, and tasted it.  She looked at Maria with surprise, and said, “Grandpa was right - this does not taste like papalo - because it is watercress!  They look enough alike to mistake their appearance, but it is definitely the wrong plant.  What is going on?”

Mateo covered his face with his hands, then he looked up and said softly, "This could be calamitous.  Cynthia did some research on plants similar to papalo, and the watercress plant looks a lot like it.  She also found out that people with kidney disease should not consume watercress.  As we all know, Grandpa's kidney's began failing a few years ago. Having eaten watercress right before this liver surgery is probably terrible for him!”

Maria's grandmother turned to face her, ”Maria, can you explain this?”

Maria's eyes had gone wide.  “I'm so, so sorry.  I did what I thought best.  After you called wanting papalo, I went out to the back garden to find some. I found out that the automatic sprinkler to that part of the garden had become clogged, and all the plants had died.  Knowing the papalo plant had become an indispensable component of grandpa's belief in a cure, I decided to smuggle some watercress to him. I suspected he would be too sick to know the difference.  I just wanted him to think it was papalo, so he would believe he could get well.  Watercress is eaten all the time in salads and sandwiches - I had no idea it could be bad for him!”

"A good cover story,” said Cynthia dryly.  “Mrs. Bedoya, I think it is time for you to hear all that I have learned.  Your granddaughter's ambitious plans to make a fortune from your farm in Mexico have me convinced she is only telling you a fraction of the truth.”

“¡Que loco! I want to hear the truth from everyone - Maria, Mateo and you, Cynthia - but not until after I tell a nurse that my husband has eaten watercress.  Perhaps if the doctors know, they can they do something to lessen the side effects from it.”

Grandma rose from her chair and strode out of the room in search of a nurse, leaving the three young adults alone.


Who should Grandma believe?


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This story is totally fictitious and may not contain accurate factual information. I had never even heard of papalo, until I did an Internet search for “indigenous plants of Mexico.” 

The Words for Wednesday Challenge supplied the following word prompts: 


calamitous, glittering, fraction, ambitious, spanx,  indispensable.




This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!



Friday, July 25, 2014

Works of Art

Helena, Montana has been listed as one of the “100 best small art towns in America.” The Holter Museum, Archie Bray Foundation, the Ghost Art Gallery and many local artists have helped to earn this reputation.

Every December, the Holter Museum hosts a week-long event, called the HO HO Holter Holiday Gift Sale, at which the work of local artists is displayed and sold. I have found some wonderful gifts for friends and family at this event. 
This past year, the gift I found was for ... me!  As I was browsing through the art for sale, I noticed a table with an assortment of little ceramic horses.  They were a variety of colors and markings, and were made to hold candles, with indentations at the spot on their backs where a saddle is usually placed.

handmade ceramic horses
It was love at first sight.  I oohed and aahed over them. However, not being one to give in to impulse purchases of impractical items, I moved on. 

My heart stayed at the table with the whimsical little horses.  I circled back to them several times, and exclaimed over them to my husband. He finally overruled my protests, that they were not practical and I really didn't need them. “You like them - so just buy them.”

He was right. Our lives are made richer by the arts. Everyone's tastes are different, and it is important to select pieces because of how they make you feel, not simply because they are valuable or well thought of by others. Buying a piece of artwork that gives us pleasure and feeds our soul is a good investment. 

It did not take me long to choose the two horses I wanted.  The horse with the black mane and socks and the one with the white nose had both drawn me in with their cheerful, friendly appearances. I felt gleeful as the museum worker carefully wrapped them for me to take home.  She asked if they were a gift; I said, “Yes - for myself.” 

These two little horses have graced both our table and our mantle since December. They have been bareback at times and have carried various colors of candles at others.  At Christmas time they held some Santa Claus shaped candles, and it actually looked as though Santa Claus was mounted on horseback!



Santa on horseback
I have never tired of my purchase, and they often make me smile when I look at them. They were a want, not a need - but I am very glad that I have them.


Do you have a favorite piece of art that brings you joy?


This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Tips on Blogging and Life - from Other Websites

I've Been Away From My Blog for a Few Days ...

I  planned to tell you yesterday about some of the great things I have found on other websites the past few weeks.  That post never materialized on my blog, but today I have some good tips about life and blogging to share.

Since March 14th, I have been posting on my blog at least six days a week.  Until this week.

I was away from home from July 13th to the 22nd. Writing my blog was challenging with only limited access to the Internet. Sharing the posts I did manage to write on Social Media seemed complicated. One day I even realized I had been tweeting my posts from my daughter's Twitter account, because I was using her laptop and I hadn't logged into my own account.  Ooops!

Still, I managed to keep up with posting to my blog all of last week.  We were headed home on Sunday; I had a plan for Monday's post, and all would be well.  Until we had car trouble!  I am finally home - but my blogging received no attention during the past few days.  I've been feeling quite frustrated, but the first and last links I am sharing this week have helped me to put things into perspective.
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#1.  Blog Tip
Fortunately, this evening I remembered an article I pinned on Pinterest, “I'm an Overwhelmed Blogger” by Julie Deneen. Reading it again has made me feeling a lot better, and I have realized I need to take some of Julie's advice. I especially like her reminder:  
“ ... I’ve done this so many times– forgotten to post and thought, “People are waiting for me and I’m not producing…”. I hate to break it to you, but people aren’t carefully monitoring you…or me. It’s okay. We aren’t on the nightly news.”
Julie is right  - the world won't stop spinning if I miss a day or two of blogging! Her article, and her website Fabulous Blogging contain huge amounts of excellent advice for all bloggers, both novice and experienced.
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2.  Recipe
My kids love the fast food restaurant IN-N-OUT Burger, but unfortunately there are none of these restaurants in Montana. I haven't had a chance to try this recipe yet, but I was pretty excited to find an IN-N-OUT Burger Copycat Recipe from Leigh Anne at Your Homebased Mom. My family is going to be surprised when I make these!


At IN-N-OUT Burger in California, during Spring Break
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3.  Cooking Tip
When I came across Maria's advice about Peeling Farm Fresh Eggs on her blog Five Simple Things, I knew I had to try her method.  I don't have chickens, so I don't have access to eggs immediately after they are laid, but even my store-bought eggs are sometimes hard to peel. When I followed Maria's directions for cooking and peeling hard boiled eggs, the eggs cooked perfectly and removing the shell was every bit as easy as she said it would be. I will be using this method from now on!

Once I cracked the shell and peeled off a small amount, the rest of the egg just slipped right out!
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4.  Photography Tip
When I saw the tutorial Make the Shot: Spoon Reflection Photography on Boost Your Photography last week, I just had to try it!  My pictures did not come out as beautifully as the ones on Katie's website, but I am pretty happy with them as a first attempt!   I need to learn more about my camera to be able to follow her instructions for the settings, but even just using the automatic settings, her directions helped me create some interesting photos.


Spoon Photography - the entire spoon


Spoon Photography - this looks like an Easter Egg!


Spoon photography - now the hearts are right-side up
Spoon photography - reflecting upside down hearts



Spoon Photography - my “assistant” kept batting at the spoon!
My “assistant” - reflected in the spoon.
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5. Blog Tip 
Starting a Blog is Like Having a Baby.  I completely agree with this title and post by Tammy Soong on Blogher.  I think most bloggers will enjoy her article and identify with her words.

My blog is still in its infancy.  It is demanding of my time, often keeps me up at night, requires constant feeding, and ... I adore it.  
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I'm Back!

Writing this post, back at my own computer, I am settling back into the blogging groove.  I can't wait to get caught up with all of the posts that I have missed by my favorite bloggers, and I look forward to making the most - - of every moment better every day. In the meantime - I hope you find these links as helpful as I have, and visit all of the blogs where I found them.  

Did You Even Miss Me?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!

Monday, July 21, 2014

One of many races

This paragraph was written on Saturday, but I decided not to publish it until today.

My daughter's love for the sport of swimming has
always been evident from her smile!
The moment of focus before a race. (photo August 2011)
In just a few hours, my daughter will swim a mile.  She is trying to break a record  - one she has been chasing for a while.  Last year it was nearly within her grasp.  After a year of vigorous training and successful swims at the Division 1 college level, she is faster and stronger.  Unfortunately, her other swims at this meet -  for whatever reason - have not reflected those improvements.  She fears the record-breaking swim she knows she is capable of may not happen.

Last night, I realized it really doesn't matter.  No matter how fast she swims this race, she has already achieved the prize. Every coach she has ever had, every athlete she has ever swum with or against, every person she has ever taught a swim lesson, and all of the families we have known through swimming over the past 13 years are a part of this, and every race.

I have so many treasured memories of times she has been cheered by swimmers, spectators and coaches. The friends we have made, and the life lessons she has learned through this sport are the real prize. A record-breaking swim would just be an extra sugar-rose on an already heavily-iced cake.

There is still a good chance she will break that record.  But no matter the outcome of the race, she is already a champion. I could not be more proud of her than I already am.


A fast time on a stop-watch is something to smile about, but the victory of sports is measured in many ways.
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The race was swum and the record remains unbroken - but so does my daughter's spirit.  She knows there will be more races and more opportunities in her future - and that some will work out and some will not.  Sometimes life is about the journey, not the finish.


This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!