Life Gets Better: An Other-Worldly Outlook

January is rolling to a close. I took a vow years ago to let January be January. In this climate, if there be any hope of killing the bugs (and I have no mercy on mosquitoes for they have no mercy on me), we need at least three weeks of good, hard freeze. I think we may have done it.

February looms, promising more of the same. I don’t like it, but I try to be nice. I look at the calendar upon which I have written my “hopefuls”. This month, I was to have organized my upstairs after I’d put away Christmas stuff, sort through and re-organize my kitchen cabinets, update my addresses and contact info, sort and dispose of excess magazines and reward myself by getting some scrapbooking done.

Aside from the scrapbooking, I’ve made headway in all the other areas. Still, I’d like to feel as though I’ve finished at least some of these categories so that I can stand back, rest my hands on my hips, heave a satisfactory sigh and say, “There now!”

(I just sighed, but it was the wrong kind.)

In March, unless spring-like weather makes an early debut and performs an intervention, I tend to get just plain ticked off about winter and start muttering a lot.

Now, I have to remind myself that I’ve recently shared with you 50 Ways to Make 2018 a Better Year”. The key word here is “better” – not “perfect”. If I’d promised in that post that the list would give you a perfect year, you likely would have found something else to waste your time reading.

I’m asking myself today, “Are things better?” I hear myself reply, “Oh, yeah! I look around the house and see that much has been done and much is left to do, but it’s better!

Golly, how I wish I had a higher gear! Alas, I have only one gear and I’m already running in it.

There are times when I look around and ask myself if any of it matters and for a fleeting moment I hanker for a dumpster.

Paper is my nemesis. But…I am a writer. Ummm…

Then, I remember this. There are two dates on every gravestone and though they may be forgotten, the dash between them is what counts. People will remember you for your dash!

We do leave a legacy in many ways – in the hearts and minds of our children, in what we build in our communities and in the lives of others, and in the stories that connect us to our heritage.

This house holds a lot of heritage.

One of the things I found as I sorted my office was a slip of paper upon which I’d written a quote attributed to Joseph Garlington. I thought I’d share it today in hopes that it puts your year and your life into perspective as it does mine.

Not Just Human Beings

I took this photo in December as I drove through the countryside on my way to meet Phoebe June. I pulled over to take photos of a sky such as I’d never seen before.

Under a wide-open Heaven, life is given to me to live each day in this strange place called Earth and I’m determined to thrive down here. I may not be able to make it perfect, but bit by bit, I can make it better, even if it’s something as simple as encouraging a friend or cleaning out files. 

The year ahead holds days and days full of surprises and mundane things.  I hope the mundane things bring you stability and peace and that all your surprises are good ones.  If last year was a “dud” – and sometimes they are – don’t lose heart.  Move forward into new territory and happier days.

You may be starting out the new year grieving the events of the last one.  Take your time and heal.  You may spend a part or all of the year in a waiting mode.  (I hear ‘ya as I wait for responses from literary agents.)  You may go on happily as you have been or you may step into a new adventure like a dear friend of mine who, in a couple of weeks, will leave behind the job she’s had for years and focus on her art!   

Leave a comment! Scroll back up. It’s just under the title of this post. Are things better – even just a little bit – in your earthly experience? I’d love to hear what you’ve done in January (I’ll even listen to your fails) and what you plan for February!

50 Ways to Make 2018 a Better Year!

After Christmas, what I’d really like is a long winter’s nap. The rest of the world, however, keeps trying to tell me year after year after ever-lovin’ year that now is the time to lose weight, organize myself and all my surroundings as though I have Martha Stewart’s minions at my beck and call and (using colorful flow charts, of course) reassess where I’m going in life. By the way, love that Martha. She knows her stuff!

I know where I’m going. I’m going to the kitchen to make some Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea so that I can scoop up Phoebe June if she’s in the mood and settle onto the sofa under the furry throw and let it be -8 degrees outside if it feels like it.

I shared with my family as we gathered for Christmas that I believe we’re doing this all wrong! With the current system, we merely set ourselves up for frustration and failure – at least in the climate of the Midwest.

Why not, I asked, celebrate the new year in spring? The third week in March, when the equinox turns us all toward sunnier days, we’ll all be full of fizz and ready to get out and walk off the pounds, eat foods that aren’t piping hot and covered with melted cheese, move out the junk and organize what’s left in hopes of creating a nice spot for a vase of fresh hyacinths and maybe – just maybe – give a hoot once again about heading somewhere in life other than closer to the fire.

I fall in line with the Phoebe June Philosophy –

Phoebe Philosopy on January

I try, though. Really, I try. Smuffy might dispute that. He’s one of those people who asks who’s been at his desk if he finds the tape and stapler lined up in reverse order. I’m one of those people who digs for the stapler, knowing that it’s under there somewhere. It makes me cry sometimes, and sometimes I get really organized, but it never seems to last for long.

Sometimes, it helps me to experiment with a “design re-mix”. I love jewelry and I always seemed to be leaving little stashes of it on the nightstand, even though I had a roomy jewelry armoire on the other side of the room I could have easily put it in. One day, when rearranging furniture, the armoire ended up much closer to the door. Suddenly, after years and years, I found myself taking off my jewelry and putting it away as soon as I entered the room. The new arrangement just seemed to function with how I think.

I’m always finding “helpful” ideas to spur me toward getting my act together in a Smuffy sort of way, but (hear me sigh) I tend to reject them or, to be honest – lose them. If I had a dollar for everything I lost between December 1st and the 25th, I could go out and buy Christmas all over again!

My darling daughter, over at is much more organized than I am. She likes these planners from Rifle Paper Company and this year she is using The Simplified Planner, available at Emily Ley Paper, Inc., and on Amazon here.

I do like using a planner, but mine is homemade. I can’t seem to think like the pre-fab ones want me to. It works better for me to use a small binder that holds 8 ½ X 5 ½” ruled sheets and create my own.

In the front, I insert monthly calendar pages that I print out myself. Behind those, I use tab dividers where I create sections pertaining to my life such as Blog, Novel, Around the House, Health, Shopping, DIY, Gifts, Scrapbooking, Ancestry and Dates to Remember. I like to include an inspirational section where I can jot down quotes or Scriptures that encourage me or that I can share with someone else.

My Planner

I take my planner along on appointments and shopping trips. That way, I can ask all the questions that have been popping into my mind since the last appointment (and find the answers when I get home) and I can look for elusive items and have measurements on hand when I find them.

Now, let me be clear about something. My creative space, though it may look better than it did a week ago, remains a place I’d still find myself apologizing for if you walked into it right now. Not a chance of seeing a photo of this post-finishing three novels/holiday preparation/getting a new kitten disaster! I do however, want to share something that I try to work with every year.

I’m often seeing lists that offer to help me “eat my elephant one bite at a time”. Most of the time, they just don’t fit with my life in one way or another. Others must have been written by someone living in a totally different climate. (Who wants to clean closets in April? It’s plantin’ time!) We all have to face the truth, even if we’re self-professed “messies” – we don’t thrive in chaos. A reasonable amount of order calms us, eases our frustrations and – DANG IT! – helps us find the stapler! As much as I love wasting time, there’s only so much of it and the more unorganized we are, the easier it seems to slip away.

Here’s the list I’ve adapted for my lifestyle and the climate we live in. The best thing I’ve found about this list? None of it matters! I have given myself the gift of releasing each and every item to the winds of time and tides of happenstance. There will be, sadly, deaths in the family. There will be, joyfully, vacations and surprises! This last year, with the frantic push to complete the novel series, none of it got done except in little half-hour snatches of time and I’ve told myself that it’s OK! After all, I was busy doing something great, right?

I hope this list helps you make one of your own and I hope you don’t get bogged down by it! Adapt the items to your lifestyle and write one across each week of your 2018 calendar.

Remember to read all the way to the end of the post because the First Friday Freebie is upon us!

50 Ways To A Better Year!

I’d love your comments! These aren’t the huge jobs you may tackle during the year such as cleaning out the whole garage or putting new siding on the house or installing a fish pond. These are the smaller, often ignored things that really frustrate us when they’re all piled up and the stapler becomes a minor player amongst the things that have gone missing. I’d love to hear your ideas on things we could add to the list.

SUBSCRIBE and SHARE so that your friends can do likewise and you can all be in the drawing for January’s FREEBIE! It’s coming up Friday for subscribers only. Here are the rules:

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

There! Now that you’ve subscribed, you can hurry on to organize your creative space and put away all the Christmas decorations. If you need help, just consult Martha – she’s much better at it than I am and hers always turns out “perfect”! 

Oh, my goodness!  That reminds me – Martha’s calendar always schedules a specific date for her to trim her donkeys’ hooves!  Now, how in the world did I manage to leave that off my list? 

Want more encouragement so you can thrive in 2018?  Check out “Life, Laughter and Lemons” here!

The Day Before Christmas: Don’t Just Survive – THRIVE!

Hustle and Bustle is right – and we don’t even have small children in the house! I LOVE Christmas, so I suppose I create my own hustle and bustle as I think of one more special thing I can wrap up or make special. This year, though my oven went out the week before Christmas, I take heart that I do not face these challenges alone. Nope – not me! I’ve got a new “helper”! There’s nothing like bringing an eight-week-old kitten into a house full of Christmas trees, paper, ribbons and freshly baked goodies.

Meet Phoebe June – we adopted her on December 7th.

Meet Phoebe June

This face explains why the blog has been silent since the First Friday Freebie! Things are busy here – really busy! Phoebe is clingy, and vocal, and so overly attached to me that it’s pitiful. And, I’m having a ball! I have to admit that I couldn’t be more tickled to have her if I were four years old! There’s something about having a cat that gives me joy and helps me thrive.  Smuffy scored BIG points by getting me a kitty for our anniversary. He is, however, getting a little tired of hearing all the baby-talk as I coo over my precious little ball of fur.

It’s been about a decade since we’ve had a kitty and the house has gradually become less and less kitty-proof. So…Christmas + Phoebe = Not-Accomplishing-Much-Except-for-Wildcat-Patrol.

I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I thought I would do so by sharing something that I wrote a few years ago when, as I prepared for Christmas, I was exhausted to the brink of collapse. It might make you smile and you may be able to pass it on to someone else who is feeling the stress of life – be it good stress or bad.

The Day Before Christmas

Enjoy your family, friends, (and of course, the furry family members) and take time to remember why we celebrate Christmas!  God Bless You!

Announcing December’s Winner!

Ten days till Christmas! That explains, in part, why I’m a little slow with the announcement. One of the things that helps me thrive is blessing others, so I love giving away gifts! Midwest Storyteller offers a monthly free gift to a faithful subscriber and December’s winner is –

Freebie Winner December 2017

Sharon of Boonville, Missouri!

Remember, the First Friday Freebie rules have changed, so Sharon’s name was drawn using our new scientific and impartial method. (I put all the entries on cards, placed them face-down and had Smuffy pick one.)

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves by Echo Design should keep Sharon’s hands warm if the forecasted “snowmageddon” hits the Midwest as the long range forecast models predict. I wouldn’t count on that prediction as things change here in the blink of an eye.  Maybe I just don’t want to think about it.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves

The gloves come equipped with those amazing little fingertip additions that enable you to operate your smart phone and other devices without taking them off – an awesome invention, if you ask me. Similar styles are available on the EchoDesign web site, so their other styles here.

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, January 5, 2018. SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight on the day of the drawing by leaving a comment as instructed in the post.

And now, here are the revised Freebie Rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you come to the post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on the first Friday of the month will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! Subscribe now, before you forget, and you might start the new year by winning a free gift!

Take a look at some of the other goodies and their winners here and here!

The Midwest Storyteller household has been turned upside-down and we’ll cover that story next time, so get ready to join the adventure and “share”, “like” and “pin” so all your friends don’t miss out.

I love it when you “Leave a Comment” and let me know your thoughts. Scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you think of the freebies so far and which features of the blog you’d like to receive more of in the future.

Have a wonderful time and enjoy the coming days as you prepare your home and your heart for Christmas. What a glorious season we celebrate!

First Friday Freebie: Just like Christmas – It’ll be Here Before You Know It!

In case you haven’t heard, Midwest Storyteller offers FREEBIES! They happen on the first Friday of every month, which means you have only two more days to wait before entering the drawing for the December Freebie! The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also.

Ooh…and what might this be?

Mystery Freebie December 2017‘Tis the season for secrets and surprises, so I’m keeping this secret till Friday, December 1st!  I thrive on keeping fun little secrets this time of year, don’t you?  It keeps the wonder in our world. 

Once you see Friday’s post, feel free to pounce on it! No pushing – no shoving – the nicest thing about lining up in cyber-land is that nobody gets hurt.

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. When the Freebie is revealed on Friday, you’ll need to scroll back up to the top of the post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! And now we wait…are you starting to get a little excited? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Take a look at a couple of other gifts I’ve given away recently here and here.

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter on Friday!

November’s Freebie Winner! You might be next!

I’m excited to announce the winner of November’s “First Friday Freebie”. A fabulous free gift is offered each month, on the first Friday, to a faithful subscriber. (Hooray for the letter, “f”!)

Subscribe now and you’ll be ready to enter to win in December! Instructions on how to do that are below.

Our November winner is…

November 2017 Freebie Winner

Ginger from Prairie Home, Missouri!

Ginger left a comment on the post, saying, “I’ll take the Blessings Jar!” and she won!

You can see the Blessings Jar and it’s contents a  little better in this photo –

Free Blessing Jar

I’m also announcing a change-up in the rules. From now on, the Freebie winner will be chosen from a drawing of the subscribers who leave a comment before midnight on the day the post appears.

I’m following the suggestion of subscriber, Liz, who was feeling that perhaps people who are busy or at work may not be able to comment until later in the day. So, a drawing will be!

If you’d like to enter the monthly give-a-way, do a few things to be sure you don’t miss out.

  1. SUBSCRIBE! On your computer, you can do that in the right side-bar. On a phone or tablet, you may need to go to the “Contact” page. Only subscribers are eligible to win. If you do not confirm your subscription by clicking on the confirmation email you receive, you are STILL not a subscriber, so don’t forget that. You’ll get an email when there’s a new post or freebie.
  2. Follow” Midwest Storyteller on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even if you forget to check your email on the first Friday, the offer will show up in your feed.
  3. Spread the love – and the FREEBIES! “Share” Midwest Storyteller with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Pin this post to Pinterest and send the pin to friends you’d like to see enter to win.

You’ll be eligible to win if you are a subscriber at the time of the offer and if you live in the continental United States. Then all you’ll need to do is read the post and leave a comment as instructed!

Simple, right?

Get ready! The next free gift will be given away on Friday, December 1st!

How are you liking the freebies so far? Please scroll back up and click on “Leave a Comment” under the title of this post and let me know.

If you’d like to see who won the First Friday Freebie for October, click here.

First Friday Freebie! Blessings Abound!

My, how time flies! Today is the first Friday in November and time for Midwest Storyteller’s First Friday Freebie. If you missed seeing my last freebie give-a-way, you can take a look at it here. If you’re wondering who won, check it out here.

Each month, I offer a gift to one of the loyal and loveable fans of Midwest Storyteller. It’s absolutely free and the rules are, oh, so simple.

This is truly the season to be thankful. As we all prepare our hearts and minds for the holiday season ahead, we know what makes us thrive! It’s our family, friends and the simple things in life that make us rich.

I’ve chosen this gift to help you and your family remember what matters most.

Free Blessing Jar

I just want you to know that I had a pretty tough time not keeping this gift for myself!

This beautiful Blessings Jar is perfect for this time of year. Included is an organza bag filled with blank “My Blessing” cards for family members and guests to fill out and drop into the jar. Also included are ten additional cards with inspirational quotes such as the one you can see in the photo by C. S. Lewis which says, “When we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place.”

Wouldn’t it be great to have each of your Thanksgiving guests drop their card into the jar when arrive? Later, gathered at the feast, you can draw the cards out of the jar and read them aloud.

Another great idea is to place the jar in a prominent place this month and have family members jot down a blessing every day to add to the jar.

And the Number 1 thing to be thankful for? The Blessing Jar is FREE!

Another thing I loved about this gift is that it matches any décor and is not limited to seasonal display. It serves as a year-round reminder and can always be used to store a few other things you’re thankful for.  Hmmm… Let me think… Cookies… Vacation money… the list goes on and on.

Ooooh! I almost forgot – it would make a lovely gift, wouldn’t it?

And now, here are the rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the helpful, fun and FREE stuff! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you are not eligible to enter.
  3. You’ll need to scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. The first subscriber to comment with, “I’ll take the Blessing Jar!” will win, provided that you’re already on the subscribers list and that you live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! Have a wonderful and blessed First Friday of the month!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter!  Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and let’s get the word out!  It’s crazy not to spread free stuff around!

Thrive Where You’re Planted!

The glories of summer are leaving us. The autumn equinox has issued its official word – “It’s over, folks!” The Midwest will soon be ablaze with reds, golds, and tawny browns that blend with summer’s remaining greens and make us gasp in awe as we round a curve or crest a hill and find ourselves face-to-face with a freshly-painted landscape.

I can’t think of a single person who has said to me, “I hate fall.” However, as much as I bask in the cooler days and the beautiful scenery, I’m always a little saddened by it. It brings that little ripple of chilly air around my collar that whispers, “Winter’s on the way!” Not that I have anything against books, fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate – I simply recoil at the thought of frigid days when those things are not available. I don’t do cold – and that’s an understatement.

I hope that if your year has been as busy as mine, you took time out for a little “thriving time” in your own little corner of the world. I promised myself early in the year that this year I would document the beauty around me. Other than events with other writers within the state, Smuffy and I didn’t get far from home. This year, home has held us fast with major projects and at times it’s been a challenge to enjoy down-time, mainly because it came along in such itty-bitty, tiny chunks! I did keep my promise to myself, however, so let’s take a tour of the “estate”, as we like to call it.

In the Spring, a splash of color is downright titillating after months of brown. Green is the new thing and other happy colors join in to brighten up the landscape. The first thing (besides a colorful weed or two) to pop up in my yard are the old-fashioned hyacinths beside my driveway.

Old Fashioned Hyacinths

I chose this spot for them on purpose. They bloom when it’s still too cold for me to be outside much, so they’re right beside me on my way to and from the car. I always keep some in a vase. The smell rivals that of lilacs and gives me hope for warmer days ahead.

At the same time, or soon thereafter, these beauties seem to decorate every yard in town, waving a cheery hello to spring. I adore daffodils, but they, like the hyacinths, leave me all too soon.  These are a double-ruffle variety.


As I write this, I realize that no tour of the estate is complete without photos of the things that every yard in this part of the Midwest seems to have at least one of – a lilac bush, a peony bush and a patch of colorful iris. They fill April and May with color and fragrance. It seems, however, that I was so busy sniffing that I didn’t take photos of those.

Moving on to May…

Don Juan Roses

It’s always special when your sweetie sends you roses, and these are the best flowers Smuffy ever sent me! These climbing Don Juan roses are gorgeous. Most climbing roses have very short stems and, therefore, aren’t something you can put in a vase, but not the Don Juans. The foliage grows to about twelve feet in height and the stems are nice and long. I included a photo of a bunch in a vase so you can see how tall they are. (This is not a small vase.) The blooms are a deep, romantic red and as they open…and open…and open, it seems the petals are never-ending. I’d recommend these stunners for anyone’s flower garden. I love you, Smuffy!

For color in the front yard, my go-to plants are Tidal Wave Petunias. There are all sorts of Wave varieties now, but once I tried the Tidal Wave, I knew I’d found something I could depend on. Each plant spreads it’s top growth out over a huge area, blooms and blooms and blooms and, best of all, never needs dead-heading!

Tidal Wave Petunias

In this photo (in which you are instructed to ignore the fact that Smuffy isn’t finished painting the trim on the house), you’ll notice that the entire area to the right of the door is taken up by only four plants! That’s bang for your buck and they’ll bloom from April until frost, which is usually expected here in mid-October.  The Tidal Waves in the photo are in a cherry pink and a color they call Silver, which has a purple throat.  Each year, I head to the greenhouse in anticipation that the Wave company may have come out with more colors!  Attention Wave People:  More Colors in Tidal Wave, please!

Back to the topic of roses – Some varieties keep on going. Here we are now at the beginning of autumn and we’re still enjoying the dependability of the Knock-out roses in this bright red and these Joseph’s Coat roses. They’ve bloomed all summer.

Knock-out and Joseph's Coat Roses

The Joseph’s Coat rose is aptly named for its many colors. It opens as you see here in the photo, with golden hues. Once open, it’s a fiery orange before maturing into a deep pink. At various times, passersby, whether on foot or driving past, have stopped to ask me what they’re called. They probably receive more comments than anything else in my yard.  I don’t remember where I got mine, but they are available from Walmart and their site has a great photo of what they look like when the bush is in full bloom.

Years ago, Smuffy got the bright idea of digging a fish pond.  Somehow –  I suppose, with those puppy-dog brown eyes of his – he got me on board with the project.  He became the hole-digging and water-works man and I became the rock placement artiste.  As bad as I wanted out of toting all those rocks, I knew I had to do it because if Smuffy were left to arrange them, the pond would be square.  All but three or four of the real “whoppers” were arranged by me prior to an extensive rest period.  Now, we enjoy getting to sit and enjoy the sound of running water and the beauty of it all.

Pond Sittin'

Along the stone walls at the back of our property, these sedum have been spending the summer in their own quiet, pale-green way as they waited for their turn to show off. Now a pale blush, they’ll soon turn bright pink before darkening to a deep burgundy and then brown. They work well when dried and used in fall arrangements. Near them, I’ve planted one of my new favorites – this delicate tall salvia in a pinkish red.

Sedum and Salvia

Once again, I must remind you, I can’t watch Smuffy every minute. Examples of his need for it can be found here.  Being in love with all things green, he sometimes plants things without asking me or bothering to save the tags. I don’t know what these two bushes are called, but they wait by my back fence every year to unleash their beauty in the fall. Now they are blooming just in time to give us the fall colors we love. It strikes me as odd, somehow, that we can be such fans of neat and tidy displays and then when autumn arrives, we all fall in love with the messy look. Suddenly, it’s as though nothing in the world is more beautiful than dead sticks, shaggy bundles of weeds and unkempt, tangled bushes like these.

Orange Berry Bushes

Now it is time for true confessions. Have you ever gone completely overboard with something? Years ago, I fell in love with Sweet Annie! Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t remember where I was when I became smitten. All I remember is being in a store and asking, “What is that glorious smell? It smells like fall in here!” My nose led me to a bundle of fluff and someone told me that this fragrant herb was called Sweet Annie. “Easy to grow,” they said. “You can make wreaths,” they said. “Add it to arrangements,” they said. I had to have it. I got my hands on some seeds and planted them in a sunny spot. I’d been promised that I’d have plenty of smelly-good wreath-making cuttings from a single plant. Oh, my!

That episode has probably been twenty years ago and I am still harvesting Sweet Annie every year! It re-seeds itself and that is stating it mildly. Each plant grows to about eight feet in height and the branches off the main stem can be cut to use in arrangements or wound together to make swags or wreaths. You’ll develop a love-hate relationship with Sweet Annie. I’ll probably never know the number of people I’ve blessed or alienated by giving them a gift of a wreath or swag. Every nose is different and while I love the stuff, Smuffy can detect the slightest bit with his super-sniffer and is quick to deposit it out onto the porch. So, I decorate the porch with it.  It overwhelms his senses indoors.  Other people fill their house with bundles and wreaths and think it’s the greatest thing on earth.  I say all this so that in case you decide to sow those seeds – you have been informed!

I cut it each September and hang it under my porch on coat-hangers to dry. This year, I had a bumper crop!

Sweet Annie

Soon, I’ll show you what I do with this fragrant herb, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out.

I enjoy my yard, but should I leave it, I don’t have to go far to enjoy the beauty of my locale. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems this has been an awesome year for beautiful clouds in our part of the Midwest.

Clouds of Fire

I only have to go a few blocks away to find myself on the banks of the Missouri River. It can become something you take for granted when life gets busy. Sometimes, however, it refuses to be ignored!

Missouri River Sunset

Being outdoors helps you thrive! It’s relaxing and therapeutic to be out pulling weeds or barbecuing with family and friends. I believe it’s important, however, to make time to just stroll or sit and stare – to soak it all in.

If you live in the Midwest, you might want to get as many of those moments in as you can, because it’s coming, folks! Here’s a photo taken in my backyard. Before we know it –

World of White

— winter will be upon us and our fascination with it’s early beauty can give way to a drab existence as we find ourselves waiting, curled up with the seed catalog, for those hyacinths to peek through the soil and refresh our spirits again.

My inspiration for this post came from a recent post over at where we are treated to a tour of her summer garden. It’s amazing what a few simple steps can do to make your own corner of the world into a place of rest and peace.

Even though my own corner has been neglected lately as I’ve spent most of my summer finishing up a novel series, I still thrive on the moments I’ve taken to get out and enjoy the place we call home. When we surround ourselves with beauty and then take time to be thankful for it, we can thrive without ever leaving home. 

Questions? Comments? Just scroll back up to the beginning of this post and click on “Leave a comment”. I’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed most in your yard this year!  Maybe you can help me identify the “mystery bush”!

Life, Laughter & Lemons

We’ve just returned from a trip. That sort of thing throws my world out of kilter. I supposed the people who thrive on deadlines and challenges have all their blog posts ready ahead of time and scheduled to post while they’re gone.


It’s my first day back from where the landscape is shades of brown, the trees are short and scrubby, but the hair is manageable – the Desert Southwest. We’ve come home to our spot in the Midwest where the grass is green, the trees are tall and plentiful and the hair is – well – natty.

Vacations help you thrive! I like the Mark Twain quote that Joseph Rosendo always says at the end of his show, Travelscope – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” It does us all good to experience people, customs and attitudes that are different from our daily grind.

I would’ve let the blog slide for another day, but it’s April 10th and I wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to my mom in Heaven. She would have been ninety-nine years old today if we still had her with us. She passed away in 2013.

Mom’s family affectionately combined her first and middle names, calling her Emmabelle. No one who knew her ever called her anything else. When I was at “that age” (you know the one), I thought hers was a funny, old-fashioned name. Later, I came to think it the most beautiful name in the world.

Other than a vast difference in height, Mom and I looked a lot alike. Here we are side by side. Isn’t she lovely? Now that she has shed the effects of her ninety-four years on earth, I’m sure she must look like this once again.

Mother and Daughter

Mom thrived amongst great adversity. She loved her seven children and did her best to raise them, though life for her was no picnic. It was hard, folks. Difficult. Emmabelle, however, made the best of every single day. Though shy and reserved, she had a quiet, ready wit and a great sense of humor. Overflowing with creativity, Mom always seemed to whip up something to make life easier or to brighten up the atmosphere.

And the holidays? Mom loved all of them, especially Christmas! I can’t even describe how she put the joy into it in her own calm and quiet way.

When I was a kid, Mom, latched onto an old typewriter and a touch-typing manual and decided to teach herself to type. She sat it up back in the utility room next to the old, wringer washing machine and worked at it every day. At a loss as to what to write, she made notes on what she did every day. I never gave it much thought. After all, your mom’s life is pretty much a drag, right? I thought it was really neat that she was learning something new “at her age”. Yeah, I was pathetic.

One day when I was a teenager, I went to the utility room to grab some clean clothes. I looked down at Mom’s typewriter. The sheet wrapped around the roller was still at the place where she’d left off. It said:

“What a day! The old cow had a calf. The old cat had kittens.  The old man had a fit!”

I decided to read Mom’s diary more often.

I have her birthday doubly on my mind this year because during this vacation, we visited my cousin who is facing the task of going through the belongings of her recently deceased parents. Her mother, Martha, my mom’s older sister, was quite a lady. Much alike, we grew to have a strong bond over the last eight years of her life. She died at age ninety-eight and I miss her terribly. After Mom left us, I’d call Martha often. We’d talk for an hour or two, howling our heads off at all the old family stories. Through those talks, I felt I got to know Mom better than ever.

Some people don’t like to look back, but I find that my family stories and my heritage help me thrive. Mom loved to work on the family tree and I’ve taken her research back further. I can’t help but wonder how she’d react to knowing that she is directly descended from kings and queens.

I’m encouraged by Mom’s example. If ever a woman took her lemons and made lemonade – Emmabelle made a sweet batch! Most people may not have thought of her as a strong woman, but as the years go by I’ve come to think of her as the strongest woman I know. And those seven children? They all, as the Scripture says, “rise up and call her blessed”.

Don’t let the “old timers” in your family go without hearing their story. You’ll be surprised and even amazed at what they’ve been through. It’ll help you thrive!

More stories from Emmabelle and Martha coming soon!

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Questions? Comments? Who do you need to hear stories from before it’s too late?!

You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important! You is a Thriver!

Now, didn’t that “Help”? Let’s push on with better grammar…

I first thought to name this blog page “Stayin’ Alive!” Love those Bee Gees! Besides, if one doesn’t accomplish at least this much in regards to one’s health, all other attempts are pretty much useless, if you get my drift.

I soon ditched that idea. There’s more to life than stayin’ alive! What’s the point of being here if your quality of life stinks? I decided on “Thrive!”

I got serious about my health during pregnancy. Up until that point, I’d stuck strictly to the See Food Diet. If I saw it, I ate it. Tall and slim, it never seemed to affect me. My dad once told me, as he watched me eat, that someday I’d stop growing up and start growing out and then be sorry about that appetite! I ate three square meals a day – big ones! No one had better leave a box of doughnuts anywhere near me.

But now, I knew that whatever I fed myself, I also fed the baby. Yikes! I spent a lot of time at the library. The baby came (all eight pounds and three ounces of her) along with an epiphany. I needed to keep her healthy till adulthood. And, (DUH!) why feed my child one way and myself another? The adult population seemed to be made up of a bunch of sick people, anyway.

Take a look at this photo. Note your first impression.

Lemonade In Gas Tank

That’s the image that came to me. We can’t run on bad fuel! Yet, we live in a country where no one seems to grasp the concept.  Or, if they do, they don’t care!

Can you imagine? Your friend Gwendolyn tells you that she hates the smell of gasoline, dislikes waiting in line at the service station and once even dribbled gasoline into her brand new shoes. She’s switching. From now on, she’ll run her car on lemonade. She likes lemonade. Tastes better, smells better and isn’t quite so icky between the toes.

You stifle a snort of laughter and get down to business. Somebody’s gotta talk Gwennie out of this madness. Doesn’t she know she’ll ruin a valuable machine with a crazy notion like that?

Gwendolyn won’t listen. Her plan is good for her, she insists. She leaves. You call several friends. After howling with laughter over Gwendolyn’s stupidity, some compassionate soul in the group says, “Listen! Don’t you think we ought to call her mother or somebody? I mean, somebody’s gotta stop her!”

I gave myself a “talkin’ to”. It went something like this: “You are kind to yourself. You are smart enough to learn. You are important to your family and you need to be the best you can be.”

Poor Smuffy went kicking and screaming all the way, suffering through strange herbs drying on the kitchen counter, whole wheat everything and tinctures galore. He told me once that the thing that kept him healthy was positive confession. Each time he’d cough or sniffle, I’d come running with some form of what he termed “stump water” and he’d call out, “I’m okay. I’m OKAY!”

Despite my efforts, I got that call from the doctor nobody wants – a cancer diagnosis. I’d studied various aspects of health, but hadn’t paid much attention to what may open the doors to cancer. I had no family history and besides, I ate good stuff! With my terrific appetite, I ate the good stuff and had room left over for some of the bad stuff.

People told me I was too young for cancer. I asked myself, “How old is old enough?” The answer, I concluded, was NEVER! After surgery, I endured chemo and radiation as “insurance”, more or less, according to the doctors. I’m sure there will be a future blog post on that nasty little interlude.

People like me are called “survivors”. I rejected that term from the beginning. It left me with an image of someone emerging from a jungle – burned, bitten, half-naked and hunted – running for a lifeboat that may or may not spring a leak. By the grace of God, I’m a WINNER! I am kind to myself. I am smart enough to learn. I am important to God and my family! I’m going to thrive

I’ve learned much over the years, and it has turned my health around.  In future posts, you’ll be receiving a lot of great health information to chew on so that you can make your own decisions and take charge of your health.  I am not your doctor and don’t pretend to be, but only hope to share helpful information.  You’re smart enough to do your own research.

So…about your reaction to the photo. Did you want to scream, “Stop, you idiot!”? Yet, we, almost never stop friends when it comes to food. Cars can be replaced. You only get one body. Why treat the finest, most intricately-designed, valuable piece of machinery ever invented – the human body – as though it were disposable?

Since the purpose of Midwest Storyteller is to take you to a better place, I want to share what I did as a first step. I gave up soda. Why pollute my body with a non-food item? A sugary soda has as many calories as a full meal. (Sorry, but I’d rather have food.) Artificially sweetened, it’s dangerous stuff, and I want to thrive! It’s been decades since I’ve had a soda. I don’t miss it. I do enjoy, however, Stayin’ Alive!

Americans have a big problem. Take a look at this aisle in my local grocery store.

Soda Aisle www.midweststoryteller.comThat’s an entire aisle! All soda! They don’t devote this much space to bread, juice, cheese, etc.  Yes, America has a problem, but you don’t have to.  We can’t fuel up on junk because we feel like it or because, like Mount Everest, it’s there.  We are as capable of making the right choices with our bodies as we are with our cars.

Okay, enough tough love. I believe in you. You are kind to yourself. You are smart enough to listen to the “real you”. You are important to God and your family.

You are also strong! Here’s the challenge: Choose one thing – just one – and take that step. Stick with it for thirty days. Whether it is to give up soda, lay off the desserts, exercise for 20 minutes five times a week or get more sleep, you can do it!

Comment, letting me know you’ve chosen one way to live a better life. Or, share something you’ve already done that might encourage others. In thirty days, comment again, letting me know that you’re not only Stayin’ Alive, but determined to Thrive!

SUBSCRIBE, because it won’t be long before I throw myself a little online party, celebrating the eighteen years that stretch between me and that cancer diagnosis.