Archive | August 2012

This Labor Day, do more than barbeque.

What’s a dirty job?  I guess that’s a relative term and depends upon what your gross-o-meter can handle.  But if it’s not illegal, immoral, or contrary to what the Good Lord commands—you should not be ashamed of your job – dirty or not.  Good, honest, hard work never hurt anyone.

I, for one, am very grateful for the unsung laborers who do jobs that most of us would rather not do.  It’s frustrating and offensive to me when people look down upon those who do jobs that they feel are beneath them.  Puhleeez! People go to work every day doing jobs that many of us don’t even know exist.  But if it weren’t for those hard-working, dedicated people doing those jobs, we wouldn’t live in the clean, safe, healthy environment that we do here in America.

We have clean drinking water, clean yards and parks for our children to play in, clean streets where sewage is transported away underground and not running into our streets like in some places in the world.  We plop our trash in cans lined with tidy little liners and toss them into a bin that we merely roll to the street. It doesn’t suddenly disappear with a poof! A lot has to be done to get your refuse hauled away. And there are people who do it every single day, all day long.

How about the next time you’re somewhere where a portable toilet is the only restroom facilities available? Stop and think about those who have to transport them, empty them, and clean them.

It can be quite expensive to stay in a nice hotel or motel with sparkling clean rooms where you don’t mind laying your head down to sleep on the bed or walking on the bathroom floor.  There are people who work hard to clean them, and I’m pretty sure they are not the ones making the big bucks at that hotel chain.

Our military service men and women protect this country and risk their lives so that mine can remain safe. They are often away from their families, so that I can be with mine.

There are so many jobs that I’m not even aware of, I’m sure. But I bet I could still make a pretty hefty list of jobs that are not the cleanest. Those doing them get dirty, muddy, sweaty, icky, wet, or they risk or put their lives on the line every single time they report for duty. And I think it’d be a fair assumption to say that they are probably under-appreciated and not thanked enough.

Dirty jobs can mean a lot of different things to different people.  But as we approach this Labor Day, dirty or not, think about those who do jobs that you would rather not do.  If you have the opportunity, thank them. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. If you can’t personally thank them, consider sending a nice note. And if that’s not possible, thank God for their service and ask that He bless them today.  And if you’re so inclined, do more than one of those things.  Thank them and pray for them.

Labor Day isn’t really about a long weekend, backyard barbeques, and the end of summer.  Although those things can be nice and fun—it’s really a holiday to honor the hard working men and women and their contributions and achievements.  So this Labor Day (and hopefully more often than that) appreciate those around you that make your life easier, cleaner, and safer.

May the Lord bless you this Labor Day and every day.

Susan Hollaway

Football, Forgiveness and Fooling Ourselves

This was a column that weighed so heavily on my heart, I felt like I had to write it, even though it wasn’t easy. It was published in the Missouri Baptist Pathway.

Let’s just say it never happened.
Feel better now?
The NCAA ruled that more than some 100 football games Penn State played over the last 14 years essentially didn’t happen. How this is supposed to make up for sexual abuse against children, I do not understand.

The ruling is a convoluted stab at justice that reveals something about our culture. We’re intent on constructing barriers in an effort to insulate ourselves from the consequences of sexual sin. Yet we’re fooling ourselves as we ignore the behaviors and attitudes destroying us from the inside out.

Creating monsters

The NCAA, like all of us, is trying to say that they wish the abuse had never occurred. But since they can’t change that, they’ll try to make it seem like the football games weren’t played.

A statue is shrouded and removed from Penn State earlier this year.

We have a responsibility to protect children and administer justice to abusers, no doubt about it. In this effort, we paint sex abusers as the most vile of all creatures. We’re convinced that an abuser must be rotten to the core and incapable of ever doing anything good, like winning a football game. So evil, it would be obvious who they were. They could never be a neighbor or Sunday school teacher or family member, this thinking suggests.

It’s a dangerous step, because it blinds us to the reality that the capacity to commit sexual sin resides within each of us. Most of us will never, ever cross that line. The line, however, keeps getting blurrier under a haze of sexualized messages that barrage us daily.

Our courts, goaded by state legislators, take a hard line on child molesters. At a recent sentencing involving a religious leader, the judge said someone who covered up crimes allowed “monsters … to destroy the souls of children.”

This is a black-and-white stance in the courtroom, but here in the real world it’s more like “50 Shades of Grey” as the explicit book is a best seller, pornography is piped into every home and nudity is depicted on network television. Sleeping together on the first date is thought to be “no big deal” while waiting for marriage is so rare it’s considered freakish.

Not a chance

In this hyper-sexualized culture, it seems children hardly stand a chance. The church’s plea for purity is drowned out as hopelessly outdated. Many Christians, I expect, are reluctant to speak out because they feel they’ve failed in this area in the past. Yet, it is only in holding to the truth that we can truly protect the innocent from those who seek to destroy their soul.

We are right to be grieved for the boys who were abused at Penn State; they carry the scars all their lives. Yet I find myself thinking about the ordinary students at that college and many others. How many of them bear lifetime scars because of “casual sex.” The consequences of sexual sin don’t stop when a person turns 18, no matter what we’ve fooled ourselves into believing.

As someone who as has never been married, I know that it’s one thing to be disciplined in behavior, yet another altogether to be pure in heart. Our church teaching should emphasize the gifts that chastity and restraint offer for people in all stages of life. Purity isn’t old-fashioned, it’s the light for our future.

One thing the NCAA ruling does get right is that sexual sin doesn’t just affect one person. The effect ripples out to a whole community. The football penalty actually impacts students the most, taking away 10 scholarships among other things. Children and the innocent suffer when vows are deemed unnecessary, when the sacred is treated as disposable and when children are considered an unfortunate byproduct of recreational activity.

Which is easier?

In my toddler Sunday school class, we recently studied the paralyzed man who was carried to Jesus by his friends. Jesus saw his physical problem, but also the greater need of his heart and said, “Sons, your sins are forgiven.”

Then Jesus reads the thoughts of the Pharisees and asks which is easier: to make a man walk or to forgive his sins? To prove his point, Jesus then heals him and the man stands up – his legs whole, his heart healed.

Those words have echoed in my mind many times this week. What is easier: To take away football wins, or to take away sins?

The NCAA doesn’t have the power to forgive. Our problems won’t be solved by taking away football wins or issuing longer sentences for convicted abusers. Until we look beyond obvious crimes to see that pornography and promiscuity cause deep wounds will we be able to rise up and walk.

Sexual sins have broken many lives. God has the power to forgive sins and to heal our hearts.
As we, the people of God, go forth in the beauty of purity, may our chastity and restraint transform the very core of our culture.

~ Susan

Gratitude: A Cure for Housework Blah’s

Since Labor Day is approaching, we’ve decided to talk about “Dirty Jobs” this week.

During high school and university, I had many odd jobs and several were custodial. But the “dirtiest” job I had, and still have, is being a mom. Every mom out there who has survived a week when the entire family suffers from a stomach bug will know what I mean.

First of all, I LOVE being a mother. I know it sounds cliché but truly it’s my favorite of all jobs and I adore my children. But, if I were truly honest, there were days when the monotony of dishes, meal prep, laundry, and general cleaning overwhelmed me.

I’ll never forget one night my husband and I spent hours mopping the floors and shampooing the carpet. A day or so later, my youngest son decided to re-enact a movie scene involving a dog named Mud-Bud. You see where this story is going? After rolling in the vegetable garden, my son marched into the house and shook off the mud in the living room. I instantly knew it would be an I’ll-laugh-about-this-at-his-wedding moments, however at that time, laughing was the last thing I felt like doing.

One day, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself while folding yet another load of laundry and mentally planning dinner. I remember thinking, “Didn’t we JUST eat three times yesterday and now we have to do it all over again today, then tomorrow, and into the foreseeable future?”

Suddenly, I felt convicted about my attitude. I was fortunate to have clothes to wash, a house to clean, food in the fridge, two lovely boys, and husband walking along side me. Most importantly, I was a child of God who was loved more than I could imagine. I had been a spoiled brat for whining instead of being grateful.

And it’s just not about having “things” because it would then follow that those who have more should be more grateful and those with little can be less grateful.

It’s about being content.

Whether we are living in want or in plenty, a heart of gratitude can turn your world around and fill you with God’s love and joy to the point you won’t mind housework…really…

In fact…oh wait…I think I just heard a plate land on the floor…I’ll be back…

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances … I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11,13

How do you cope with day-to-day jobs?

A breath taking season

In July my heart takes a deep breath and holds it until September. Memories flood my soul, and its not just the bad ones that grab me and won’t let go. For many years Independence day was not so good. Alcohol can do that to a holiday! But recovery came and then a job at Jake’s Fireworks. Oh my what changes ensue. Family reunions, church picnics, laughter, and old friends.

Death came softly at the end of July, then August arrives with its memories. A lump that was cancer, and a wednesday wedding;. a baby shower as a very pregnant expectant mom, a poured foundation for a new business, first days of school, the last weekend at the lake.
New memories are in the making now. Grandchildren, crafting holidays , writing challenges and sweet fellowship with new friends and old. I sit more now and few things are as “earthshaking” as they used to be. I have fun seeing what happens when I let my creative bent have free reign and I take more time to just read a book.


It happened just this morning in the sewing room!


Still July and August are a landmine field to be navigated. September soon will come. Crisp fall days will soon arrive and provide opportunity for rest and a renewed purpose. I have once more survived. And I am blessed.

Do you have a season that challenges your heart? I’d love it if you shared.




It is still dark outside this morning as I write this. A gentle rain is falling…and it would be a good day to stay inside and WRITE!! However…we are off to a volleyball tournament for the day. Last night we attended the first VB scrimmage of the year. Soon, and very soon, we will be adding a weeknight into the mix, and often will have to choose between which grandchild gets our attention for the evening!!

School has begun!!

Like so many others who have recalled their school memories this week, I also have a few. Among the fat pencils, the new clothes, the smell of newly painted/cleaned school buildings, and the angst of sending that last little chick off to fit under someone else’s wing–among my fondest memories are the janitors at the small school I attended until my sophomore year.

It was a small town, two schools–a grade school which housed the first six grades on the first floor (three big room, two grades each) and the lunch room on the second floor. Yes…even waaayyy back then we had hot lunches and the students who attended the junior/senior high school, which was just up the sidewalk, came to this buildling to eat. And then there was the high school, which was home to grades 7-12, and also the gymnasium/stage. This building was the hub of any excitement that went on in that small town.

The janitors were Mr. and Mrs. Amos. To this day I don’t recall their first names. We were never allowed to call them, or any other teacher, anything but Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Even the cooks were never on a first name basis.

Mr. and Mrs. Amos didn’t live at the school, but I don’t remember how old I was before I realized that. They were always there. They’d greet you in the morning, say goodbye at night, if you forgot a book and needed in the locked building you could rattle the door and after awhile their smiling faces would appear. And in the summertime, they painted and varnished and washed windows so when school started again–always after Labor Day–we were greeted with the smells that still today linger in my mind. They knew every child in the school by name, knew their parent’s name and how to get in touch with them if they caught you doing something naughty. We knew better than to run the stairs two at a time, or attempt to slide the bannisters for a quick way down. Heaven help us if we rubbed our names into frosty window panes (unless you got smart enough to put someone else’s name instead of your own), and somehow you imagined that if your paper towel didn’t go IN the trashcan in the bathrooms, they would know who the guilty party was.

The first person you saw of a morning, the last person you saw before heading out the door in the evening, and between classes…Mr. and Mrs. Amos were never idle. Armed with the big oily mops, or big white cloths they dusted, polished, and sprinkled funny smelling stuff around to cover up the stench of whatever it is that kids do to make a place stink.

Students started school, graduated and left. Teachers came..and moved on. But Mr. and Mrs. Amos were there in that small town until their death. The grade school still stands-now a museum. The high school has long been torn down–a victim of progress they said. The little town no longer houses a school–though it could boast of the first consolidated school district in Kansas at one time. The town itself is just a little dot on the Kansas map, near the middle. They say when a school dies, so dies the town. But there are those who still live there and fight valiantly to maintain the viability of the community. And many return for the every-other-year school reunions.

Today I’m off to a VB tourney. There will be lots of kids and parents. Lots of food consumed in the open commons area. Paper towels will be heaped and overflowing in the restrooms, and yes–some will be on the floor. Popcorn sacks and energy drink bottles will lie strewn among the bleachers when the day is done.

But I will pick my trash up, make sure my towel hits the can, and I will say THANK YOU to the people I see holding the big mops, and the white cloths, and who will linger long after the last referee whistle blows to make sure the building is ready for Monday morning.

Those faithful Mr. and Mrs. Amos’s–found in every school–may never stand before a classroom, but they teach nevertheless…

by example!!

And shame to any who thinks the job menial!!

School Changes Everything

First day of school.

BIG changes happened for our family last week. For the first time all three boys are going to school and the house is silent. Somedays it’s too silent! It’s Isaac’s first year and he was so excited. I thought “we” were doing fine until we walked into the gym to line up with his class. Suddenly my bouncing boy wasn’t bouncing. They lined up and went to class. Then the moms could come and take pictures.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gone, but this look stuck with me all day.

You’re leaving me here?

I picked the boys up at the end of the day and had a hundred questions to ask. The one I really wanted to know but didn’t ask was if he wanted to go back. After all the questions about lunch, recess, classmates and teachers, he said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m going back tomorrow.” What a relief! Then he fell asleep for two hours. School might have worn him out, but he’d been up since 5 AM! Every morning he bounces out of the house. That makes it so much easier for this mommy to let him go. The silence in the house is sometimes a quiet blessing and other times so loud I can hardly think.

So what am I doing with ‘all my time’? I’ve been asked this more than I can count! I never realized how concerned people are with my time!! I make my list each day and it often gets interrupted. Mark might need help in the field or I’m inspired to fold laundry. Mostly, I want to use this time to write. I’d love to have another story finished by Spring. I decided to volunteer at school so I’d be there once a week and involved. To my great surprise and delight, I was asked to teach art classes to four of the elementary classes. I’ll be working with another teacher to build this new program. One day a week, teaching art, in the school where my boys are. I think the changes are very good!

Back to school for me.

It’s Friday–enjoy your weekend!


Back to school and autumn

I was one of those nerds who always liked school. Shopping for school supplies was a thrill.  I remember getting the latest magazine my mom ordered for us, looking at all the pictures of the girls in their cute fall clothes with coordinating hats.  I love hats.  I couldn’t wait until the latest fall JC Penney and Sears and Roebuck catalogs came in the mail.   Back then, people shopped a lot by catalog.  Now it’s online shopping.  But I digress.  The point is … back to school holds so many precious memories for me.  And every year I get to hold new ones near and dear to my heart as my daughter goes through school.  Time goes so fast.  She’ll be in college before I know it.   Sigh.

In my school days, I remember as summer came to a close, the air would eventually turn cooler, the leaves would begin to fall, and I’d run through them– enjoying the crunching sound they made beneath my feet. Okay. I still do the run through the leaves and crunching beneath my feet thing.

When my daughter was little, we’d go down every single aisle together exploring and picking up what we’d need for the new year.  We’d visit Hobby Lobby for the latest art supplies. Ah, the memories of elementary school.  Now that my daughter is in high school, it’s mostly ink pens, mechanical pencils, extra lead, college ruled paper, spiral notebooks, three-ring binders, index cards, new debate box, and legal pads.  But it’s still fun.

Our church believes strongly in reaching out in the community. Not long ago, our pastor gave a short sermon, the information desk handed out  shopping lists for school supplies, and we were sent out to shop for the supplies highlighted on our lists. The supplies would go to those children in our community that couldn’t get the supplies they needed.  We were to bring our bounty back to the church in 45 minutes.  Walmart didn’t know what hit ’em.  I met people in our church on that shopping excursion that I hadn’t been introduced to yet,as we all helped one another find the items on our lists in the crowd we created.  It was a very cool experience.

I think because I’ve always loved reading and learning, school was always something I looked forward to.  Autumn is my favorite season.  Some look at it that plants from the spring and summer are gradually dying as things head into winter and hibernation.  But not me.  I’ve always seen it each season brings something new.  Autumn is a time of new beginnings.  And I love the leaves as they turn color.  Mums bloom in fall.  They’re one of my favorite flowers.
I think God’s Word says it best.  Ecclesiastes 3:1  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

May God bless you as you embark upon the path He’s set before you this autumn.


Susan Hollaway

6 Tips For Good Grades in College

Dear College Students,

It’s the start of a new school year and gazing at the long semester stretching ahead – clear til Christmas! – it may look like a marathon.

It’s not. It’s a sprint. Get out of the academic gate early and fast. Set the pace so the teacher and the rest of the class see you at the lead. Although I was terrible at all sports, I viewed academics as a kind of sport – and I played to win!

Here’s my unsolicited advice in six simple steps.

I recently got to visit with Bobby Bearcat, the mascot of my alma mater Northwest Missouri State University.

1. Make sure the professor knows your name.

Sit near the front. Raise your hand and ask questions. If it’s a very large lecture class, you may have to stay after class just to say hello. Or say, “I’m worried about this class. Any advice you would give?” I guarantee the professor will remember that and smile when he grades your test. Teachers smiling as they grade is a good thing.

2. Study hard for the first test.

Because you don’t know the professor’s style or the exact test format, the first test of the semester is the most difficult. Study extra hard. When you do well, the teacher will view you as a top student and give you a break from time to time.

3. Go to class. Seriously.

Being in a classroom for 50 minutes sessions, three days of the week is a pretty low threshold. Meet it. It sets a good habit for the working world, where the boss will expect you to be there on time every day. Many instructors count attendance as part of the grade, even though it might not say so on the syllabus. When she’s assigning final grades, if she remembers seeing your happy, shiny face every class period, it shows respect for her and for your education. That curve is more likely to bend in your favor.

4. Rewrite your notes.

I did this the first three years of college. By then, I figured I had a pretty good handle on it. It may not be necessary for every class, but for lecture courses, it is simple, effective way to get the information inside your head for good.

5. Take advantage of resources.

Most colleges have free tutoring services and they want you to use them. You don’t have to be flunking, you can go even if you just want to raise your grade from a C to a B. Getting help and graduating with a degree is a lot cooler than failing out and still having to pay off student loan debt.

6. Study what you like.

Certain general education requirements are unavoidable. But if your major classes are in a field you enjoy, it won’t seem so much like studying as doing what you like. If possible, mix in some of your major courses with the gen eds. This provides some motivation and keeps education from getting boring.

If you get off to an early start this semester, the rest will go much more easily. You may even coast the last lap. Sometimes you don’t have to take the final if you’ve got an A at the end of the semester.

College is a wonderful opportunity and it can be a great experience. It really was some of the best times of my life. I’m cheering on my nieces and friends in college to run in such a way to win the prize this semester.

~ Susan

The Smell of Back-To-School

The first day of school has the most memory-evoking smells for me than any other time of the year, except maybe for Christmastime. Although I’ve been out of school for awhile, back-to-school shopping sends me back to a little girl attending Princess Anne School in Windsor, Ontario.

Do any of these scents resonate with you?

  • Strong odor of vinyl binders
  • Woody smell of newly sharpened pencils
  • Powdery scent of freshly mixed tempera paints
  • Fumes from rubber cement (Who didn’t like to ball that between their palms?)
  • Sweet fragrance of drying oak leaves
  • Rubbery smell of new erasers and rain boots
  • Chemically scent of scrubbed desktops 
  • Clean aroma from a sparkling layer of floor wax
  • Dusty smell of new chalk
  • Lemony fragrance of Murphy’s Oil Soap on spotless wooden shelves
  • Crisp scent of new paper and books

What smells remind you of school days?


Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

My how times have changed

When I went to school for the first time, I was six and it was first grade. No preschool, no kindergarten, a big pencil, a tablet a box of crayons and a little pair of sizzors.
I remember the flash cards with the letters (d had a little guy holding up the “ball” with a stick so it didn’t roll down the hill). Fast forward to January and the excitement that came when we got our first reader. What a day that was!
Four long months we had spent learning our alphabet, how they sounded, how they looked, laboriously writing them over and over on our specially lined tablet. And then wonder of wonders A BOOK!
Yesterday our granddaughter came home from her first day of first grade. With her was a list of 100 site words to learn by christmas. She already knew them all. Her first book… oh that was way back there in kindergarten somewhere.. now long forgotten.
I wonder  how ever we could have made it through without being hopelessly behind. ( Oh did I mention it was a country school so we only went eight months, not nine. School was out the first of May, our help was needed on the farm.
However did we do it? and we didn’t even have Dora, Grover, Diago or Blue!