Heartbeaking Honesty

The power of words is shown by this young lady who likes to write and to speak.  She has a beautiful future/

The power of words is shown by this young lady
who likes to write and to speak. She has a beautiful future/

A few days before her 17th birthday, Kelsi Budinger’s sermon, in her Seattle area youth groups service for a Unitarian Church, brought tears and applause from the congregation.

This is an abbreviated version: “At my school when you’re a sophomore, you’re required to take Health in order to graduate. In that class, we do something super cool, called panels, where students from the school come in and talk about their experiences with whatever the topic might happen to be. I did the panel for suicide and depression this year and I’m about to do it again this semester.

“One thing I talked about is how to tell when someone is depressed. My answer is ‘you can’t.’ Some of the happiest people around actually may be the ones who are hurting the most. Sometimes they let their sadness show. and when people ask what’s wrong, they just say, “I’m really tired.

“Brave faces have been my life since middle school and possibly earlier. My biological mother left when I was two, and that shook me up. I’ve had residual pain and anger about it ever since, and, though it may be irrational, I wonder if it was because it was I wasn’t good enough for her. I know that’s not the case, but the thought has crossed my mind many times growing up. but I’ve learned to hide it. I learned not to cry about it every time I thought about her. I learned to smile and laugh. But my version of laughter is always the real thing. This isn’t to say that I never feel happiness, or that I never smile for real. I’m saying I know how to hide my pain now.

“When someone hurts me, I don’t let them see it very much, because I’m too proud, or I’m trying to protect them. I know I can turn to my parents or other friends to talk, but sometimes I feel like a burden, or I feel like they’ll think my problems and feelings are invalid.

“This is what people struggle with every day because of the culture we live in, because of the things people say and do. Many people tell those with problems that their problems are stupid, that they just need to get over themselves. It hurts to be that person whose feelings have been invalidated. The brave faces are put on to protect ourselves from further hurt.

“What needs to happen is that people need to let others talk things through. People need to be supportive of their friends and family. So go out and support them. Be that rock, or, if you’re the one struggling, insist that someone be there for you.

“Stand up for yourself. Because you deserve it, and society doesn’t understand that yet.”

Busyness Can Be a Disease

Julie Crist is wise.  We reached her at AccuPlanet, an alternative health business in Colville, WA, to ask why doing nothing is better than doing.

Her first response is to quote Mahatma Gandhi who said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

“Our chronic busyness is not normal or healthy, and most of the other humans on the planet don’t live life like many of us.  You can eat right and exercise but if you neglect your mental and spiritual hygiene, you are probably cutting the benefits from all your hard work by at least half.  That’s how important it is to bring your entire life to a halt on a regular basis.

“This is not easy.  All of us trying to survive in America today are under constant attack to ‘be more productive.’  In my job, every minute of the day is scheduled. This is every bit as pathological as a flu bug.  However, my time off is holy, and my home is a sanctuary where I recover.  I try to give my soul room to breathe and reconnect with my natural rhythms by NOT scheduling anything that is not necessary.  I drink in all the quiet time I can.  I rarely ever pick up the phone or get on the computer on my days off and we don’t have TV in the house.  An occasional movie is it.  In a word, my weekends are antisocial.”

Then she quotes Master Zhongxian Wu: ‘My first feeling about life in American culture is that life is a rush . . . When I first came here, it was a big shock to see that everyone had a schedule book.  As I started working with people in the U.S., I found that everything had to be planned ahead.  I felt that I could not enjoy the moment when I tried doing this. I had to think about what I would be doing in the next hour, even in the next minute.  It seemed to me that one day’s life was not whole.  It was divided into many small pieces.  I have tried not to make too many plans in a day, but I have never used a schedule in all my time here. I try to maintain my daily oneness in life.’

Says Julie about one of her biggest lessons about daily oneness is to STOP over-extending and over-committing, but most of all to ignore as many of her brilliant ideas as possible:  ‘Oh, Wouldn’t it be great if we built a . . . over there, took a trip to . . . bought anomedium_3889243610ther . . .  Did this, did that, went here or there?

“No, it wouldn’t.” she declares with conviction.  “It would mostly be more clutter to manage, more time wasted, more stress and less freedom and joy.  More and more I tell my chattery  mind to shut up.  Simplify, simplify.

“Pick one thing today not to do.  Give yourself an entire day unscheduled.  Stop multi-tasking.  Take a day off from the phone and computer.  Give meditation a try.  Spend some time outside and drinking tea.”

If you can, it will clean and nourish your mind and spirit.

The Truth Underlying Snowbirds

A Snowbird flies from the North to the South for winter months.  This one explains it keeps its spirit when going through storms.

A Snowbird flies from the North to the South for winter months. This one explains it keeps its spirit when going through storms.

In the story of Snowbirds, a little vintage recreational vehicle breaks down so many times that those interviewing the author always want to know, “With so many troubles, weren’t you discouraged?”

When responding to Mike Ward, the editor of RV Life, the answer had to be brief because he had so many other questions. “No, because then we could with no problem park in the lot, or on the street, of any auto repair shop.  Undoubtedly, there might be a real need for repair, part or diagnosis.  And, thus we met so many fatherly mechanics who not only fixed the problem but provided learning skills for us.”

But, the real truth underlying his and the same question from others, is this: How does one face adversity?

Because of our belief in the power of attraction, it means that we feel responsible for the quality of all our experiences, so why not enjoy what happens even when you find you’re stepping into a pot hole in your journey through life?

Unexpected or challenging experiences are placed in our paths for unforeseen reasons.  If one faces life and lives in the present moment, life becomes awesome.  The experience of living through something challenging is spirit-filled and infectious in their revelations if your heart is open to seeing them.

Therefore, you are not a victim or feel anxious because you are trying to escape the present by having illusions of something different.

Overcoming adversity means to integrate and accept any life experience no matter how difficult.  Thus, the uncertainties of life do not hold fear. That’s why any story worth it’s salt asks this question.

Kindergarteners Among Super Bowl Fans

super bowl party

Hey. Hey. Hey.  In Washington State we’re the ones who are the twelfth members of the Seahawks team.

The case for folks here being the most devoted fans in the US is strong.  The symbol #12 perches on clock towers, city halls, on the habits of nuns, flies high on newspaper banners and homes.  It’s everywhere.

The support for Seahawks began showing up early.  Just visit the kindergarten kids at Jefferson Elementary in Spokane.  In Andrea Sims’ class they have been wearing blue and green every Friday since September.  They’ve mailed Christmas cards to Seahawk’s quarterback Russell Wilson.  They took a picture with a poster of him and wrote sentences about what they would do if they could spend a day with him.  Just prior to the big game, they had a party for another kindergarten class and discussed the game.

They also talk about how it’s not winning or losing but Wilson’s philosophy of never giving up, says Sims who says she is the most fanatical fan ever.   There is a good case for this vision at their last game which sent the Seahawks off to the Super Bowl.  They were behind with two minutes to go when the miracles begin happening and they went into overtime play.  It was boring until those two magical minutes.

Don’t know Sims but have heard of other similar devoted fans.  There is a woman in Wisconsin who covers her television screen and front door with black cloth when her team loses.

According to a poll of THOSE WHO KNOW, five experts say the Patriots will win in tomorrow’s Super Bowl.  Only two are standing by the Seahawks.   Whatever happens it’s fun to see folks in Washington State as excited as the fans I’ve witnessed in Iowa.   Before this era of the Seahawks, I thought Iowans were the most spirited for a football team, be it the Hawkeyes or a high school team.

It’s a lot more fun and exciting when you can ENTER the spirit of a game!

A Unique Apple Pie

apple pies

Sure, it’s Super Bowl Sunday. but have you decided what yummy snack you’ll be making?

If you want an exciting dish to add to the excitement at half-time, why not try this apple pie made with sour cream.  It’s been in a couple of my story cookbooks and has stood the taste of time.


Peel and core four cups of apples and slice them thin.  Place into an unbaked pie shell.

Mix 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 tbsp. flour, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and one egg.  Add 1/2 pint sour cream to this mixture and pour over the apples.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

While the pie is baking, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 tbsp. melted butter and 1 tsp. cinnamon with a fork to make crumbs for the topping.

After removing pie from oven, put on topping and then return to oven to bake for another 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Food and football go together like good friends and Super Bowl Sunday.   Last year we were in San Miguel d’Allende.  Vince and Suzi traveled from Washington State to join us for tacos and apple pie.  It was delightful.  The Sea Hawks won!   Pieces of pie devoured as fast as the game.

Tips for Radio Talk Show Guests

On air for an author is a beautiful way to connect with potential readers.

On air for an author is a beautiful way to connect with potential readers.

Meeting folks via a radio show is a lot of fun.  It’s easy if you’re relaxed, delighted to be sharing your expertise with unknown listeners  and talk show host.

Here are a few tips:  Know your  subject; Give short responses; If asked for more details, give short snip its. Preview the station and your host.  On-air interviews have a conversational flow.  Radio hosts are smart, quick to jump into the juice of your content.

First, you’ll be contacted by someone at the station, usually the host via e-mail or phone.  Kathy Raeker, host for “Let’s Talk,” in Cinncinatti, Ohio, phoned to ask if I’d be  home the night before her broadcast so she could confirm me as her guest.

Unfortunately, I forgot and was at an AAUW Coffee House.  I cringed when I got home and the blinking message machine had Kathy’s voice  giving me the station number, her cell, an home numbers.  As it was now one or two in the morning my time, I decided to phone her at 4 a.m. and reach her home at 7 a.m.

It worked. She was relieved to hear from me.  On air, it was as if we’d known each other for years and were just having a good time together talking about freedoms of a recreational vehicle trip.   She wants the latest tips for her listeners.

Host of I-Heart Radio Show in Houston is a different breed  He and his female sidekick are comedians.  I laughed all the way through our ten minutes on air.  When it was over, I wanted to do it all over again.  It was more fun than an author deserves.   I’m still pondering this question he asked: What one item shouldn’t you bring?

Nancy and Lisa Smith have the Big Blend radio show as well as an on-line magazine.   They had visited some of the sites I mention  in Snowbirds.   They are as fond of Ft. Bowie as  I am of this little -known national site.

Cheating Winter

Winter is often harsh.  Snow, ice, sub-zero temperatures take guts and fortitude to live through with a smile .

Winter freezes us, too, from being over ambitious.  It takes twice as long to do anything or to go anywhere.  However, we CAN swindle the difficult months of winter by TAKING advantage of them.

Spring through fall can be even more enjoyable IF a few chores during the winter months are done.  We can be like the farmers who are just sharpening equipment for a new season ahead.

Seed catalogs arriving through your door by the bucketsful might be considered treasures.  Savor them.  Make planting lists.  Have your spring orders for plants and seeds ready to mail or e-mail.

Perhaps a nasty closet, drawer or cabinet needs pruning.  Spend an hour with that ugly task.  Then give yourself a pat on the back for paring down and storing the “stuff” for a garage sale or give-away party.

Speaking of parties, host a Cabin Fever Party.  Folks will go through six foot of snow to get there.  They want to share just how many layers of clothing they have on.  At one such party, the norm seemed to be fifteen and over.   They also want to share their ski adventures.  Don’t invite whiners.

Grab a cup of green tea.  Put in a teaspoon of cinnamon.  It’s good for what ails you.  All sorts of good things happen.  Sit and ponder the places to which you’d like to travel next year in the winter as a snowbird (For hints about the juicy U.S. sites, please see my new memoir, Snowbirds).  Ah, and in the sweeter months of the year, think about cruising the Great Lakes in one of those small or big cruise boats.  Hint: the short cruise ships offers the most affordable rates.

Applaud Mother Nature for nourishing the land.  She’s doing her best to balance our dispositions to the ying and yang of life, although while doing so she can be a miserable, mean, untrustworthy gal.

Smiling at These

It’s a New Year and I’m thinking about the people, events or things which cause me to smile.  (Not in any order)

l) Finding a penny where one wasn’t a day before.

2) Saying ‘goodbye’ to Mud Season.   (Between March 30 and May l)

3) Helping plan the Aug. 8th Fire Dst. l0 picnic at Deep Lake.

4) Viewing the first Friends pie auction  (I’ll bake a huckleberry/rhubarb)

5) Seeing if the Casino’s Melt Down slot machine goes crazy.

6) Finding out if Casanova Cowboy lives or dies.

7) Tramping the historic Anasazi Ruins in New Mexico at Chaco Canyon.

8) Tasting the first strawberry in the garden.

9) Finding a vacant clothes hanger in a cluttered closet.

10) Receiving an unexpected e-mail or letter that is truly delightful.

11) Will the 2000 Chrysler Convertible with 196,000 miles live to drive another year?

12) Giggling with 8-year-old Tom Boy twins.

13) Discovering a great recipe for dinner rolls or peanut butter cookies.

14) Remembering a dear departed friend or relative.

15)  The smile of a loved one.

smiling girl

A Wish Comes True

santa letter

Secretly, you may all grown up in years, but haven’t you ever wished that maybe one Christmas that you might receive a letter from Santa.  No matter that the years have come and gone like miles on a vehicle?

Then, one snowy day, there one is!  In your mail box.  An official letter from Santa.

It is, for sure.  Because North Pole is written in the upper left hand corner.  The stationery is light green.  It’s hand written, as only Santa does  The ink is green and red, his colors.

It’s really for me!  It’s addressed to the Lazy B Ranch.  He knows the correct spelling of my name, too.  He says his rain deer can hardly wait to fly across the sky to deliver some special surprises.  He won’t lose his way because he tells me he will use the newest technology to keep his sleigh on track.

I know it’s from him because only Santa would say in a letter, “The elves and I are especially proud of all you do for the little community on Deep Lake Boundary Road.”  I guess Santa notices the things we do.

He signs off, “A jolly big hug!  Santa.”

Here’s an even bigger one for you, Santa.  As well as for the people as far away as Croatia, India, France or U.S. who drop by to read this blog.

Don’t forget to write to all of the other grownup kids around the world.

I’m so proud of the letter you wrote to me.  I want to put it under glass just like the Constitution or the Decoration of Impendence like they do in Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Santa.  Happy trails to you Christmas Eve.

Santa Lives Here

christmas decorations

It’s Santa’s house.  Not in C.R. and Jane Conn’s imaginations at all.

Standing high above the Colville Valley in Eastern Washington state, there’s magic here.

This home has no corners, vaulted ceilings, white walls, and it’s all concrete and built into a hillside.  The home is backdrop for a veritable feast of Christmas ideas.

Four gigantic seven foot trees are centerpieces in the huge rooms, all with big windows looking out at wooden rain deer flying through the night sky or upon other huge trees outdoors, all lit at 5 p.m. exactly, so they’ll glow below to folks passing by on the highway.

The first encountered is filled with handcrafted decorations, one created every year for years or given to them as gifts.  Each has a story.

One twinkling tree, all silver and big silver snowflakes, is nearby cozy furniture arrangements and other unique ornaments.  “Here’s the area kids and adults love,” says Jane who leaves her hostess duties to show the animated bears playing instruments or dancing.

The bar room features the most whimsical tree of all — friends have made ornaments that are puzzles to solve.  One made of little blocks of wood is ‘a cord of wood’.  Another is a painted white and black cow which has a hole in its center and from which dangles a little pink toilet, a brown deer, and ends with a John Deere tractor, all items at the Conn house, and standing for “Holy Cow, It’s a John Deere.”   There’s so many, a printed key is needed to untangle the mysteries!

“The more risqué ones,” says Jane, “Are hiding on the back side,” as she leads us off to the master bedroom with its little silver tree.  “This one is up all year.  I change it for each holiday.”

“You must work at this for days,” someone says in awe, “Actually, we do a little bit every day for weeks,”

Then, comes along C.R. with a group of men who slyly asks, “Want to see my Man Cave?  It’s in another building.”

The house smiles.  Guests grin.

Santa lives here, joyful, smiling, welcoming, loving, as he witnesses the joys of Christmas unfold.