Tuesday, June 26, 2012

License to Drive

It's almost my birthday! But that's not the most important detail.

I was cleaning out my wallet today in preparation for a trip. I took out all the cards: library, gift, National Weather Service Severe Weather Spotter, driver's license...

Whoa, back up the truck! That's right, in just another four days, my driver's license expires, so I'll be making a stop at my local long line driver's license bureau in the next couple of days.

In the town where I grew up, local newspaper columnist Dale Huffman used to remind readers quarterly to pull out their licenses and check the expiration date. That's what I'm doing for you--pull out your license, check the date, and if it expires soon, circle a date during the week before on your calendar. Don't get relegated to Chief Bell Ringer, as I was in the photo. Take the driver's seat.

And thanks for the birthday wishes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Favorite Site Down? Useful Link

To carry over with the library theme, I keep a list of over 250 libraries on Twitter. Talk about smart people and tons of great tips!

So keeping it pretty plain and simple today--I saw (on Twitter) that a local fast food place was giving away free t-shirts to the first one hundred customers at noon today. Oh, yeah, I'm there! Scored my free tee and couldn't wait to tweet back to show my appreciation to the Twitter tipster.

BUT I couldn't log in to Twitter. Frustrating! I wondered if Twitter was down for everyone? Or just me?

And that's when I remembered a tip tweeted by a library. If you want to find out if a web site is down, check Down For Everyone Or Just Me? Great name, huh? Just enter the URL or name and find out in seconds whether technology has sent you back in time for a while.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Reading Club at Your Public Library--Join!

When I was a kid, I lived for books. I could not wait to go to the library. I mean, shelves upon shelves of free books? What a concept!

Before I had a magical library card, a friend loaned me a nickel so I could get a one-use card (thank you, Lori Deen). I finally got a real card and one day I tried to check out books with my National Jr. Honor Society card--quite embarassing!

When I was 18 in the late 70s, I got THE CALL and became an employee of the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, now called the Dayton Metropolitan Library. I worked there for nine years. Having unlimited access to books and making them available to our patrons was a dream come true. Often ours was the busiest branch in the system, and I was proud of that.

It's difficult to pick out what was the most fun, but I always loved the Summer Reading Club. It didn't matter if I was on the patron side of the desk, watching the librarian stamp each book-representing space on the folder, or if I was the one doing the stamping for some excited kids. The purpose of summer reading club was to keep kids reading after school was out, and to keep those books circulating, and I can tell you it worked like a charm.

We always held a kick-off free marionette show to get kids into the library. Supervisor and children's librarian Treva, LAII Cheryl, and I (LAI) would clamber up on a fold out table behind the Peppermint Palace Marionette Theater and work our magic. Treva's mantra: "Marionettes do not fly," meaning we were to walk their feet across the stage, not lift them. Cheryl and I often regaled our break room companions by floridly reciting the scripts, which were taken from classic picture books and recorded on cassette tapes.

The only title I recalled on my own is Tops and Bottoms, a trickster tale. The version I linked to isn't word for word, and there are a couple of pages missing on Google Books, but you'll get the idea. A random line from another script (Cheryl's favorite) haunted me the other day: "I no move!" I set out to find it. After a few minutes, I was pleased beyond belief to find that a teacher had posted the whole book online: The Gunniwolf . What a treasure!

Take your kids to join your local Summer Reading Club and participate in the free activities at your local library. I promise you they will remember it for the rest of their lives, and maybe they'll take it a step further and work in a library one day, or even write books like I do. Help them join the reading club.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Long May Our Land Be Bright

It's Flag Day!

"Our fathers' God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King."
America, by Samuel Francis Smith, 1831

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Testament in Deitsh

On March 31, we took a drive to Kenton, Ohio, home of a Swartzentruber Amish settlement. Someone at the Pfeiffer Station General Store advised us to swing by The Country Variety Store & Bakery on US 68 north of Bellefontaine. I had been to The Country Variety Store when we lived in Bellefontaine several years ago. I needed a special kind of chocolate to make candy for Valentine's Day school treats, but that's another post.

Anyway, the store was tended by Amish ladies, I suspect perhaps New Order Amish from nearby Belle Center. I didn't take their photos, but I did take a photo of a very interesting book. I was so excited that my hand wiggled and the photo is blurry, but it's the New Testament in Pennsylvania Deitsh! In fact, here's exactly what the cover says: Es Nei Teshtament Pennsylvania Deitsh Un English Mitt Di Psaltah un Shpricha.  The only other photo I could find online is here, but it's tiny.

The more I learned about the Amish, the more concerned I was about having a Bible available to them in their own language. English is a third language for many, and the Bible used in many worship services is in High German. What they speak at home, as I understand it, is Deitsh, and even that is spelled many different ways, since this is mostly a spoken, not written, language.

At any rate, I was excited and encouraged! Thanks, Lord!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Silence

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven

Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning

Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day.
                                                            Eleanor Farjeon, 1931

Saturday, June 9, 2012

National Iced Tea Day, Sunday June 10

Ahhh. I was raised in the southern tradition of sweet tea. My mom was born and raised in Kentucky, and so were all my grandparents. Once we took our English friends to the old Riverfront Stadium and they were amazed when we said that right across the Ohio River was Kentucky. Their knowledge of the state came from Kentucky Fried Chicken, with advertising which led them to believe Kentucky was "way down South."

I don't know how my mom learned to make iced tea, but I'm glad she taught me. It's really easy to make your own sweet tea (or okay, just plain iced tea with an eeny bit of sugar). When you make your own iced tea at home, you will never, ever be forced to drink coffee flavored tea because someone thought you could just heat a pot of water in the coffee maker *shudder*.

I use six Lipton tea bags and my favorite tea brewing pan, which has a lid. I usually use my tea kettle to boil the water, but if you don't have a kettle, just boil water in the pan. How much water? Fill the pan half full of cold water. If you're using a tea kettle, then you'll fill the pan half full with the boiling water. I don't pour the boiling water over the tea bags, because sometimes they break open. At any rate, when you have half a pan of boiling water, remove it from the stove and dunk 6 regular or 4 family size tea bags. Let the string and tabs hang over the lip, cover and let steep for 5 minutes or so. Steep, isn't that lovely?

While the tea concentrate is steeping, fill a pitcher half full of cold water, and after five minutes, remove the tea bags from the pan and add the tea concentrate to the pitcher. But wait! You can make a big sweet tea ceremony out of this: fish out each tea bag with a teaspoon. With the bag in the bowl of the spoon, wrap the string around the bag and squeeze every last drop of tea into the pan, then discard the bag. Why do it this way? Tradition. Plus more tea. I read a hoity-toity newspaper article about sweet tea mystique where the author questioned this tradition. Pshaw.

Am I going to reveal how much sugar I put in my pitcher o' sweet tea? No. Sweeten to your taste. Pour over lots of ice and sip slowly. Ahhh.

Recently I had a revelation. I rarely drink my full cup of sweet hot tea in the morning. Brainstorm--stick the cup in the refrigerator and add water for a cup of sweet tea at lunchtime. I've also started making sweet tea by the cup. We have insulated tumblers, so I fill halfway with boiling water, add a tea bag, and steep for five minutes. Add sufficient sugar (it melts into the hot concentrate), and then fill the cup the rest of the way with ice cubes. Ahhhh.

So celebrate National Iced Tea Day with our traditional southern recipe and method. And repeat after me, "I will NEVER drink coffee-flavored tea again."     

Friday, June 8, 2012

Vinegar--Who Knew?

I'm going to do it. Really. I'm going to clean my mini-blinds (achoo!) with white vinegar and a cotton glove. This Reader's Digest link tells how--the mini-blind tip is #3 on a list of 150 chores made easier with vinegar. I hope the thought of buzzing through your chores in record time makes you smile. Then when we're finished, let's head for our favorite retreats and relax.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Do You Deliver?

I can only guess at what delicious treats these Geauga County boys must have been delivering for their mother. Somehow I doubt it was pizza, the dinner item most often delivered to our house. What do you think was inside the cooler?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Leaving It All Behind and Starting Over

Philippians 3:8, The Message: Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.

I'll own it. It's been a while since I blogged. The competition is fierce! Scores of people in Bloggerland are clamoring for your attention, friends. Shh...listen.

"I'm an expert on..."
"Get stuff cheap!"
"Win! Win! Win!"

"Write better!"
"Get published!"
"Buy my product!"

Do you have a headache yet?

That said, there are some blogs I love to visit. Most of these reveal a real person who wants to share something beautiful with me. Off the top of my head, I can think of three. Janie and Steve, Utah Trails is a gorgeous photo blog that whisks me away on horseback rides that I will never make in this lifetime. A Joyful Chaos is like a refreshing visit with a formerly Amish friend. I never leave Life Lessons without an insight that brings me closer to my savior, Jesus Christ.

So what can I do for you today? I am an author currently working on Amish historical fiction. Does that make me an expert on all things Amish? I'd be a fool to think so, and the Amish would be first to agree. I do live near Ohio Amish Country and I will have beautiful photos to share from time to time.

Can I help you find inexpensive stuff? I believe we were created with the desire to share good news. That's how the Gospel spreads, after all. If I find a good deal, I may share it, but I'm far from the best at this. I'm more likely to share the real Good News.
Will I do giveaways? Maybe.

Can I help you get published? I doubt it--my agent is not taking on any new clients at present, and my publisher has become drastically more selective since we began our association pre-9/11. My best advice is, you have to really, really want to get published and you have to work really, really hard. But take heart--if God has being published in mind for you, nothing can stop you!

Can I help you be a better writer? Sure--READ! WRITE TIGHT! I can also make an observation: The more I write, the less certain I am of how to do it well. Ask my editor! :-)

Will I be endlessly hawking my books here? No. I've heard many, many publishing industry professionals advise that it's absolutely essential to reach your readers through a blog (in fact, file this under "Get Published!"), but unless I'm sharing that I have a new book out, or sharing a book cover, that's it. I may, however, tell you about books by other authors, like Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm, by David Kline. Don't miss it!

What I really want to do is talk with you, make you smile and even make you laugh. I want to help you slow down and appreciate the beautiful world God has made. Writing is lonely, yet many of you face far worse circumstances. I believe what we most admire about the Amish is their appreciation for the simple gifts God has for us. He always provides something of beauty to lift our spirits, and that's what I want to share with you.