Archive | January 2013

I have mixed feelings about snow.

snowflakesA while back on this blog, I spoke of the first snow of the season and how I’d never outgrow dashing outside, twirling around with my arms outstretched, and my tongue stuck out to catch the first snowflakes. That’s absolutely true. There’s no denying that snow is beautiful. And I love that aspect…there’s just things I don’t like about it as well, causing me to have mixed feelings about the fluffy white stuff. Especially as I’ve gotten older.

Snow has a purpose. It’s moisture in the winter and we need it. And I’m thankful (particularly from that perspective) when we get it. And it makes for great sledding, snowball fights, and creative snow men and snow women. However, as I’ve gotten older, the relationship between snow and myself has become a bit cold. From snow’s perspective, I guess I’ve become a fair weather friend. I want it when I want it and never when I have to travel any distance in it. I know, I know. So mature! But there–I said it. Snow has lost some of its appeal.

I do have to clarify that I still dream of being able to go to a place where it’s snowy enough (at Christmas time, of course) to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride. At least once in my life, I’d like to do that. And that can’t happen without lots of the stuff.  Seriously, I need to make up my mind, don’t I?

I’m no snow scientist or meteorologist. But as I understand it, snow just isn’t the beautiful white substance we perceive. It’s all about photons and light and how it encounters objects and bounces. I even read once that snow is mostly air. Hmph! All I can say is that no matter how it we perceive it, that “white” air that collects on the ground can sure be more tricky to drive in that the supposed clear stuff.

But,  if we’re all healthy, no where we’re obligated to go, and we’re warm and snug inside … then let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

May the beauty of God’s creation — no matter what the season — bless you.  Even if it’s icky to drive in.  =)

Susan Hollaway

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Snow, eh?

Sunburst in snowy ForestTo be truthful, I feel a little pressure to perform on the topic this week – Snow Days. I am, after all, the only resident of the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada) on this blog.

I’ve had a little trouble concentrating on my writing since last night’s storm blew a hole right through my igloo. Once that was patched, I loaded the kids on the sled while our dog team pulled us to the school. We were running late and almost got stopped by the Royal Mounted Canadian Police for speeding. Of course, it was tough getting there in the dark—the sun doesn’t rise until about eleven and then sinks behind the horizon shortly after two.

But I made the most of the three hours of sunlight we had. After dropping off the kids, I strapped on my snow shoes and wandered down to the local ice-fishing hole. I was blessed with a fine catch of fish for dinner. The maple syrup slathered over the fillets was scrumptious!

After dinner we settled in to watch a hockey game on TV, followed by re-runs of Red Green.

Later, hubby and I tucked our kids in bed for the night beneath their bearskin blankets, then sat outside to view the Northern Lights. And I swear one of the constellations looked just like the Queen.

Ahhh…love winter in Canada, eh?

– Cherie

Canadian Snow Day

Diary of my last snow day

snowday6:30 a.m. Wake up to the sound of wind howling and blowing snow against the window. Decide there’s no hurry to take a shower just yet.

7 a.m.  Listen to radio reports of school cancellations and road closings. Drink coffee in pajamas.

8:03 a.m. Call office. Boss reports he made it to work in his four-wheel drive truck. Promise to try it in a few hours.

8:04 a.m. Snuggle up with a book and a blanket.

9:27 a.m. Draft blog post on the quiet beauty of snow fall.

9:56 a.m. Grieve at sound of snowplow clearing street.

10:08 a.m. Bundle up in boots, coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Grab snow shovel.

10:11 a.m. Size up snowdrift in driveway, speed of wind and cold temperatures.

10:12 a.m. Call boss and say I may try to get in after lunch.

10:13 a.m. Facebook, email, Words with Friends, Pages From Stages blog, Facebook, Angry Birds.

11:35 a.m. Start making potato soup.

1:06 p.m. Bemoan state of America as youth no longer seem motivated to work.

1:07 p.m. Bundle up in boots, coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Grab snow shovel.

1:10 p.m. Look hopefully up and down street for youth eager to earn a buck shoveling driveway.

1:24 p.m. Rest from labors. Realize driveway is 5 percent cleared.

1:43 p.m. Wonder how it’s possible to be freezing and sweating at same time.

1:45 p.m. Recall news accounts of people who have heart attacks shoveling snow. Resolve not to be a statistic.

1:47 p.m. Drink hot cocoa. Email boss that I’ll be in tomorrow.

2:12 p.m. Return to driveway.

2: 20 p.m. Figure car can push out rest of the snow.

2:21 p.m. Rethink assumptions.

2:24 p.m. Jam car from forward to reverse, fling snow, ice and mud over hood. Rethink blog post.

2:33 p.m. “Planting rose bushes beside driveway” filed under “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

2:46 p.m. Car is free!

2:50 p.m. Plot revenge on snow plow driver who scrapes ice chunks over the end of the driveway.

2:56 p.m. Back car up and down driveway two dozen times to pack snow.

2:58 p.m. Retreat inside. Remove coat, hat, scarves, gloves and boots.

3:04 p.m. Deny dog’s request to take a walk.

3:08 p.m. Snuggle up with a book and a blanket.

5:13 p.m. Take hot shower to relieve aches of snow shoveling.

6:14 p.m. Watch news forecast and see sunny skies forecast for tomorrow.

Susie-4028-EditPS 726:16 p.m. Gives thanks for the snow day and be relieved that they only happen once in a while.

Blessings.

~Susan

Holding On

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While this may not be the best shot…you get the idea. Miss Kitity climbs screens. We’ve tried everything we know to break this habit…but she keeps coming back as determined as ever. She came to us as a stray kitty. We don’t know if she had been accustomed to being indoors, but we have to be very careful going in and out or she will slip right in behind us. It breaks my heart to shoo her back out again. And for you who are cat lovers, you probably think we are the meanest people…but we have too many in our family who have severe cat allergies. We just can’t let her in.

But, oh how pitiful she looks, hanging on for dear life, usually her small nose pressed against the screen, trying her best to see what we are doing.

You know what? I think I know how she feels. Right now, to be very honest, this is exactly how I feel…as a writer. I’m hanging on for dear life…what I want is just on the other side of that screen….and I want in.

I can’t make Miss Kitty understand it’s not that we don’t want her…but other factors preclude our decision. And the bottom line for this funny little cat…it would be better for her to turn loose of the desire to get into this house and look for another home.

In the meantime, we’ll both continue to hang on and hope for an open door.
road 2 we like!

Mountain Views

One thing Mark and I have always enjoyed doing together is snow skiing. We’ve gone by ourselves, with groups of friends, taken youth groups and gone with another family. This week, we took our boys and a friend of our oldest. It was the best time! Since we put Caleb on skis at the age of three (what were we thinking?), we’ve always had one that wasn’t old enough to ski with us. Sometimes we took Grandma or a babysitter to watch the non-skier. Then that child moved into ski school or Mark would spend hours with that boy on a leash with the tips of the skis hooked together. Bless Mark for always having a good and willing attitude!

Our youngest was very against ski school this year, assuring us he’d beat us down the mountain. He did and more than once! I don’t know how many times I’ve looked forward to having all the boys old enough to ski with us and this year it happened.

At the top of the mountain.

At the top of the mountain. They love poising for these pictures and staring into the sun!

Our view from the chair lift.

Our view from the chair lift.

The view from the top of the mountain is always amazing!

The view from the top of the mountain is always amazing!

We had a great time together. The boys are growing up too quickly, but this is a fun age to share in these memories!

Sara

Take Time To Smell the Roses!

Life has been more than hectic lately for me, but then, who isn’t super busy these days?  My message today is short and to the point.

No matter what’s going on in our lives and how busy we are … there’s always time to dig into the Word of God and then listen to Him.  If there’s not, then we’re too busy and / or need to organize our time better.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true — I need to organize my time better.  Yesterday was really stressful, but then I realized I didn’t dig into God’s Word.  I hit the ground running and forgot.  How can I forget to spend time with my Lord? I talk to Him so much throughout each day, but I was at a dead run all day and failed to open my Bible.  Sigh.  The discipline of daily devotional quiet time in His Word is essential for me, and when I don’t do it…my day just isn’t where it needs to be. “I’m” not where I need to be.

I’m not at a place where I can control all the “things” that are making life busy and hectic, but I can certainly improve on my time management skills.  I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.

God whispered on my heart this morning that faith in Him includes accepting His time table.  That’s not just in the BIG things, but in all the little things too.  Slow down. Take time to smell the roses. God created them and He has a purpose for all things.

Whether you’re waiting, struggling, or whatever the things are in your life that might make you “less than calm,” remember God’s Word always contains the answer.

“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It ]hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.  – Habakkuk 2:3 (NASB)

Relax. Take a deep breath. Focus on the Lord. And remember….

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  -Philipians 4:6-77 (NASB)

Blessings,

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Susan Hollaway

 

What’s Your Comfort Movie?

It was 1985 and my family stepped into a new era. It was a year of firsts – our first microwave oven and our first VCR player. And both were enormous by today’s standards, but back then we stood in awe of these modern inventions and the convenience they would bring.

Do you remember these?

Do you remember these?

The VCR particularly interested me as a kid since it changed the face of home entertainment forever. No longer were we captive to the network’s schedules to catch our favourite television shows or Christmas specials. No, we could program the VCR and watch these programs at OUR convenience. Finally, we could sing along with the Sound of Music anytime, not just at Christmas. Then came along the video stores and our heads spun with the options that lay before us, row upon row!

Fast-forward many years later to Y2K and I just gave birth to my firstborn. My own little family had both a VCR and DVD player. The big, bulky VHS tapes were starting to be discounted to make way for the slick DVDs, so we ended up with a small collection of children’s videos for cheap. My sons had their favourites over the years and we actually wore the tape out on a few Thomas the Tank Engine videos.

Now, we haven’t gotten fancy and upgraded to TiVo or anything like that since we aren’t hooked into any one program. But I do have my favourite “comfort movies” that I like to watch, and re-watch. I’ll stick one of these in when I have a mountain load of laundry to fold or iron, or I’m sick and my eyes refuse to focus on a book. Another time might be on a cold, icy winter day when I opt to run indoors on a treadmill while being pleasantly distracted by Mr. Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice DVDSleepless in SeattleMy top comfort movies are: Pride and Prejudice (BBC Version), Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Sense and Sensibility, Australia, Becoming Jane, Sound of Music, Anne of Green Gables, The Princess Bride, and Sleepless in Seattle. I will add Les Misérables to the list when that’s out on video. (You see I like sappy…I guess the LOTR trilogy doesn’t quite fit the pattern…)

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Do you have any “comfort movies”? Do you remember your first VCR player?

Homemade cleaner with just 2 ingredients

This is a homemade cleaner that is easy to make and nice to use.2012-07-15 20.31.14

Start with the rinds of fresh oranges and pack them into a Mason jar. Or whatever kind of jar I used here. In order to have enough, I put the peelings in a baggie in the freezer until I’d collected about a jar full.

Once they’re packed in the jar, pour vinegar over them until the jar is full. I used regular white vinegar. Let it sit for about 10 days. Then, pour off the liquid into a spray bottle. Just throw the “pickled” orange rinds away. The result is a fresh citrus smelling cleaner that is cheap and completely safe. It works well for basic cleaning, like counter tops.

So far, I haven’t gotten into homemade laundry soap or other cleaners because it didn’t seem to fit my time demands. This one was easy enough to make and didn’t require me to buy strange ingredients.

Susie-4028-EditPS 72

Simple and cheap – Just the way I like it!

~ Susan

Do you make any homemade soaps? Have a tip for cleaning with vinegar?

Critiques….new beginnings

I came to the kindergarten pre-school visit smiling, child #4 in tow. Other mothers were there, most younger, with their first child. Nervous. Kiddos gripping hands. Anxiety written on all faces. But not me!! Nope. This was my fourth kid. The most outgoing of all my children. I’d prepared him, and me, for this event. How hard could it be. And how badly I felt for those new mom’s with their reluctant youngsters. Letting go is hard.

Then we get to the classroom. The sweet teacher allows our child to sit on the floor at our feet–obviously so he/she is not so overwhelmed. I smile, indulging her caution. My son sits, and immediately covers his face with his hands. Only once, while all the other kids are on their knees, anxious to take part…only once, when the sweet teachers passes the shoebox decorated to look like a bunny and invites the ‘new’ students to ‘feed the bunny’ a paper carrot (with their name written on it)….only then does my son, the one so well prepared, dare to peek through his fingers, but refuses the carrot, and doesn’t much care if the bunny goes hungry or not. And when the juice and cookies are served, he manages to get them down with his eyes still covered, albeit with only one hand this time.

By now, I am no longer smiling. It has become uncomfortably warm in the classroom, and I fear the perspiration I can feel trickling down my back will make it all the way to the small chair I’m sitting on, and it would permanently bond to my double knit skirt. I was so prepared. My smiling, sweet natured, outgoing son was so well prepared. I had rehearsed all the mistakes I’d made with the other three, certain we’d not repeat them. We’d gone over and over what to expect so there’d be no surprises. The teacher, and all his classmates were sure to love this child. What happened? And why did I have a lump in my throat?

Son #2 grips my hand as we walk to the car, and I’m wondering if he’ll let go so I can drive home. I open the door, he hops in (very bunny like, I might add…and this was the day before seat belts), plops himself down and with a grin says “Wow, that was fun mom. I can’t wait to go to kindergarten.” I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or pretend he actually belonged to someone else.

A critique is much like what I’ve just described. At times you accompany your ‘child’, perhaps smiling at first, then later  sit in the classroom wishing  you could put your hands over your face. Other times you hit the ‘send’ button and propel that same child to far away places. You’re prepared (you think)…you’ve prepared your child (you hope), and then when it ‘hops’ back you’re not sure whether to laugh, or cry, or pretend someone else wrote that scene. What happened? You were so sure you had covered all the mistakes you’d made earlier. And why is there a lump in your throat?

Yet, in the heart of each writer is the statement….”I can’t wait….”

But we do wait. We wait for the critiques to return. We wait to hear from agents or editors. We ‘begin again’, and sometimes we begin again and again and again. Perspiration trickles, and there are times we think the office chair we are sitting in will be permanently adhered to our backsides, and there are time when it should be. There are times we smile with pride…other times we’d like to pretend that baby really belonged to someone else.

Letting go is hard. It’s our child…our baby. We long for it to ‘fit in’. We want it to be loved.

Waiting is hard…will the time ever pass? Will we ever get beyond kindergarten?

Son #2 is now a father of three. Time did pass. Lessons were learned. And the preparation was worth it. I now proudly claim him.

That’s what keeps me writing.

I’m not sure I will ever see my name on the spine of a book. But I will wait. I will begin again.

And I will definitely say…”Wow. That was fun!!”

Fresh Start – New Story

“So, what do you do with all your time?”

“I write.”

“Really?You write books? How many do  you have out?”

“Well, I don’t have any published, but I’m working on my third.”

“Your third and you don’t have any published? Why not?”

Why not? That’s a huge question that would take up several blogs and one each of us could answer in our own way! For me, the first book was my first and that should be enough explanation! My second has been put away for a while. It’s finished, but I need to change a few things. But the time came last fall for a change. With any creative endeavor, there is a point where you finally have to stop and put it away for a while.

A fresh start.

It’s a struggle for a writer to put away a project. We live with those characters playing in our minds for months and for many of us, years. After working on my second story, Autumn’s Grace, for almost three years, I was known to say, “Good grief, can’t they figure out their own problems? I’m tired of how they’re acting!” Definatly time to move on.

To start a new story is daunting. The idea of writing 90,000 words and not even knowing the first one is overwhelming. A fresh start might be exciting, but it isn’t easy. Often returning to the previous story sounds so much better!

This third story is a fresh start for me. My last two have been contemporary and this one is a historical from the 1920’s. I’ve been doing a lot of research in Abilene and have found some incredible gems of information to include. I’ve planned it out, found pictures of the clothes my characters wear, and know what their high points and their lowest moments will be. I know when the circus came to town and the price of silk stockings.

This fresh start has become quite enjoyable. Isn’t that how most fresh starts are? It’s hard to walk away from the present moment or project, but if we do, the freedom we have and the joy we find are refreshing and exciting.

I will come back to my second story–hopefully with new ideas that will make it stronger and an excitement for re-writing it one more time.

But right now, I’ve been given a fresh start in the form of a new story. It’s the Roaring ’20s and my heroine is independent and daring and a whole lot of fun!

Have a great weekend!

Sara Sara M