How To Preserve Your Legacy

Keeping a journal serves as a catharsis for me, a way to contemplate life’s events and make sense of life’s experiences, deal with angst.  But that’s not why I write.  Within each of us exists a legacy of memories, recipes, tips and stories crying out for expression.  A sad generation glued to cell phones and Google tidbits for news will one day wish they’d plumbed the well of life experience you carry…and if you write it down, they’ll be able to do just that!  To encourage you, let me share one of my children’s memories.

Fall brings to a close one of my favorite things, so I’ll share a memory fitting the season:

Blue Blood and True Blue

dedicated to Levi

Only Levi shares my passion for royalty.  Far from our humble home and beneath a clear sky, the pageantry begins:  emblazoned symbols, a regal crown and a banner unfurled in the breeze herald the festivities.  The music starts and we involuntarily rise.  Yes, I’d say we’re impressed by royalty.

The lives of the royal family fascinate us.  We cheer their successes and anguish over their defeats, loyal to the end.  We scour the paper for news, and if the press maligns them, we scream, “Foul play!”  Royal names and titles slide easily into our daily conversations.

“Chico’s got a hot bat today, doesn’t he?”

“The Hammer hit another two run homer!  His fourteenth!”

“Monty’s arm sure looks better, and his speed’s up, too!”

Yes, we love those Royals, win or lose, strike or no strike.  It just comes naturally.  My mom never missed a game.  Crippled, she rallied behind the Royals (and the Athletics before them) by radio and television.  Many of my fondest memories include these vicarious friends.  Our favorite Sunday afternoons found us ruminating on the Sunday puzzle, sharing a ball game, a quiet peace between us.  As she lay dying in the ICU, my brother and I stood by her bed, willing her to survive.

“You’ll get better, I”ll get you a Frank White baseball,” my brother promised her.

She laughed.  “What are you going to do? Walk up to his front door and ask him to sign it?”

“If that’s what it takes,” he shot right back.

Well, we started laughing.  We laughed so hard the monitor went berserk and nurses poured into the room to examine her, staring reprovingly at us for administering the best curative of all, love and laughter.  That Frank White baseball lived with my brother until his death, a reminder of the that love we shared.  Fast forward seven years.  Lounging in her favorite rocker, my youngest son now shares the legacy, laughing with each hit or stunning double play.

Home schooling is so much more than books and lesson plans.  Tucked away in the heart of home education is the matrix of shared fun.  The sterile schoolroom, inhabited through business hours Monday through Friday, feels poor and bereft when its lifeblood leaves for home each day, just as learning feels strained in its strange environment.  At home, where we live our learning and our joy, lessons come much more freely, built on a foundation of baseball, firelit nights and the many other pleasures we share together.  Those golden moments set the stage for the lesson plans and written assignments our public counterparts formalize as education.  Without them, learning loses its sparkle.  So, bring on the good times!

Here, we savor the sweeps and hope for at least a wild card slot in the pennant race, and study baseball whenever possible.  I’ll always miss my mom, but I’m so thankful Levi and I slug away our days like royalty, watching the Royals.

Yes, baseball is drawing to a close for yet another season, but the joy of sharing the Royals is being passed onto another Rhoads generation, and I love it!  Most of all I love saving memories of my children, which their children now enjoy.  Perpetuate the cycle of life by taking pen in hand and writing it down.  Capture your memories and pin them to a page.  Your family will be glad you did.




Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?

People, meaning all of us, you and me, defy easy descriptions.  My oldest son is one I would call an extrovert by every definition.  At the age of 12, if granted any wish for his birthday, his first desire would have been a 12-year-old to live in his room with him.  All the time.  Yup.  An extrovert.aaron

Yet ask him, and he thinks of himself as introvert–a person who recharges his batteries in solitude.  His wife and I laughed at that one, because she and I are on the shy side, and he is anything but shy,  yet it got me thinking.

expoNone of us fit into easy little Facebook icons.  I spent Saturday in one of my side gigs, as a vendor and organizer of a local Expo.  It was demanding.  Lots of little glitches demanded patience, flexibility and ingenuity.  I had to use a microphone and get looked at every so often…me, who hates cameras and mirrors.  I was blessed with a steady stream of shoppers I greeted and blessed to the best of my ability.  I got little to no sleep the night before and spent a long day on my feet, shedding my shoes long before the Expo ended.  Yet I felt energized, not drained.  So am I an extrovert?

Before you decide, know this:  I fail at small talk.  I treasure a few close friends.  Without solitude I get cranky.  I hug the walls at large gatherings.  Yup, I’m a conundrum.  I am an extroverted introvert.  Clear as mud, right?  What is important is knowing yourself.  I believe every single person needs some solitude.  The Psalmist said it best: Be still and know that I am God.  When we live at a frenetic pace without time for reflection, we do ourselves a disservice and lose the grounding that completes us.  Knowing when to be busy and when to stop is crucial for your own mental health.

In a recent discussion at church the whole tension of the Mary/Martha syndrome got a work over.  I would love to be a Mary sometimes, but when the kids all walk in the door, the first question is, “What’s for dinner, Nana?”  Close on its heels comes, “When are we eating, Nana?”   Like all scripture stories, we are given a summary of what took place.  I’m wondering how much older Martha was than Mary.  If Jesus later said, “Help your sister more, kiddo.”  If Martha hadn’t fixed dinner, would He have turned stones to bread? Was there a local catering firm?

Women are called to be Marthas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Yet they need those Mary moments.  If you are an introvert, you need more Mary moments, and if you are an extrovert, don’t fool yourself.  You still need time for solitude and reflection lest you grow shallow and cold.  The trick is to know yourself.  Know your own warning signals.  Pay attention, and carve Mary moments into your day when you need them.  And if you are a crazy, mixed up extroverted introvert, heaven help you!  You just might be a mess like me, lol.

What is the Best Time of Day?

The kiddos arrive and we always start with prayer.  The best time of day? In theory, yes.  In reality, no.  We talk.  we settle into our routine.  We snuggle through math review.  We have fun over lunch.

But the best part of the day occurs when we don’t DO anything at all.  Cuddling on the couch, playing word games and taking selfies is as important in raising a child as reading and math.  How I pity children locked into sterile classrooms where laughter and tickle bug are edged out by grammar and geography.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in a well-rounded curriculum.  I just believe it should include liberal amounts of love.  One day she will enter formal education, whether it’s next year or junior college, and these days will be the basis of her confidence, her joy, her sense of well-being.  You just can’t buy that with a private school education or mandate it with government regulation.  Too bad.  I think all children need lessons of love extending into their adolescent years.  Even Matthias, a teenager struggling with algebra, enjoys a close relationship.  He’s past tickling, but he still revels in just cuddling up and talking about things.

There exists no greater insecurity than adolescence.  There is no meaner creature than a 7th grade girl, and no rougher environment than a school.  Any school.  Every single youngster struggles to find his/her place, compares his/herself with every other developing student, fears ridicule, and feels inadequate.  At home it’s different.  No one else is the same age, so there’s no comparison except with yesterday’s version of yourself.  No one else stands out as the beauty, the jock, the most popular, the class president–so no child feels less worthy.  These lessons are all learned, but learned at a later time with muted drama.  For now, learning to be the very best person without drama and pressure are

The best part of my day results in beefing up security, growing confidence, filling a little soul with love.  Today we played word games theough free reading, took selfies, and enjoyed an extended cuddling session on the couch.  The. Best. Time. of Day.

How to Edit a Manuscript Painlessly

Everyone keeps a stash of wisdom, helpful tips, and great stories tucked into the cockles of their brains and the cubbyholes of their hearts.  A manuscript is the best way to preserve your history, and it’s not that hard.

Either the kids can’t sit still and listen, or the story sounds long and convoluted. or worse yet, the very people who need to hear your words seem disinterested.  It happens.  They think we will live forever.  We lack the vivacity to make it come alive.  No matter the reason, too much vital information gets lost in the process.  Your experience, your stories need to be heard.

A book (novella) preserves all those tidbits and memorializes stories that need to be told.  Take pen in hand and write!  The hurdle so many then face is an unwieldy manuscript needing attention.  Grammatical errors and faux pas need correction and sentences made readable.  No, you don’t have to be an English major for this step to happen.

Enter the editor.  Yes!  Hire an editor to review and format your document.  A good editor tracks suggestions you can accept or reject, and handles rewrites as part of the process of taking your manuscript from your laptop to print.  The first draft of my manuscript languished for a couple years.  I couldn’t find a publisher and I couldn’t find an agent, and I couldn’t see self-printing it without some attention to detail, so it lived on a cold back burner.  My oldest son encouraged me to get it out and get it printed, so I took a second look and hired an editor.  Best. Thing. Ever!book work

Find a listing of editors at  My own editor has a waiting list, but can be reached at  I highly recommend you find someone to help you.  My book should be ready for publication within the month.  It’s a lot easier than you think.

Only 109 Days Till Christmas!?!!!

Holy chocolate reindeer!  I’m falling behind.  My shopping isn’t complete…I like to have it done in September so I can focus on Thanksgiving, and then really enjoy Christmas with only stocking stuffers on my radar.  Needless to say, Christmas is my favorite holiday.  Looking at the foreboding and grim specter of an imminent move, I plan to really savor this bittersweet Christmas.

Christmas 2007 013Alma was a “Bah, humbugger” not because he didn’t like Christmas as much as because it made him feel inadequate.  Finding the perfect gift, the perfect affordable gift turned him from a Tiny Tim to an Ebenezer Scrooge, eschewing the holiday to eliminate the angst.  He’d sit back in a rocker on Christmas morning and enjoy the spectacle, participating only when forced, happy to be present, never realizing his presence was my present.  His favorite part took place after all the gifts were opened, after all the empty stockings gave up their treasures, when gifts needed to be assembled.  Everyone will miss the handyman.

What a mom wants is to be surrounded by her kids and grands, with lots of happy sounds, full tummies…a family bursting with joy.  That’s why I start my Christmas shopping so early.  Why I set up my tree on Thanksgiving night.  Why I decorate every possible surface.  Why I bake, bake bake.  I want the perfect Norman Rockwell experience for my family.  My old friend and the quintessential crooner said it well.  “Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white.'”   Yup, thanks Bing.

This year will be bittersweet.  Thankful for the 15 blessings around the table, I’ll be missing one.  Knowing I may have to leave my home, it has got to be picture perfect.  Every single blessing I can give simply must be a part of the celebration.  I have no idea what my future looks like, so I will cherish the now.


Book Review: How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies

Bill’s sister wandered through a book store and found this.  She sent it to me.  First published in 1988, I found it still the most comprehensive and helpful book on the subject, despite its age.  This comprehensive guide covers all facets of grieving and healing after loss.  She begins with a thorough lesson on grief–the physical, psychological, and social impacts.  She recognizes the practical implications and how they affect everything from your wallet to where you live.  She doesn’t stop there.

Whether you’ve lost a spouse, a child, a relative, a best friend or a beloved pet, the manifestations of grief threaten to overwhelm daily life.  While no map exists with a direct path to healing, insight does help.  A lot.

We lost Alma so suddenly, there was no time to say goodbye.  He was gone by the time we reached the hospital, and I found myself sobbing over his body, a part of me astonished by the depth of my expression, and a part of me asking, “What just happened here?”  I remained paralyzed for weeks, racked by the shattering question, “How could my son lay dying 100 yards from me and I not know that?  How is that even possible?”  Healing remains slow and each gain hard won. waiting

But let me be totally honest.  I didn’t want to just say goodbye, I wanted to say, “Could you fix the mower?” “I’d love a new coffee table, would you make me one?” “Katelyn is getting pretty saucy, could you start a boot camp and bring her in line?” “Would you go with us to Alaska?”  I still want to say all those things, and I still watch for him to walk through that door.  I am not the only one.

Finding the will, the courage, the peace, the strength, the oomph to go on living is a good thing.  I heartily recommend this excellent read.

And Now She Makes Music? Is This Kindergarten?

I ought to begin by admitting that chronologically speaking, none of us are actually in kindergarten.  I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide if we function at grade level or not.  And I include myself in this grading of our work habits, for I am one of those in the mix of household personalities who make up our sweet little home/work stations.

I like to work from the living room couch with my laptop on the coffee table, but my grands find their own favorite nooks for their studies.  Katelyn likes to start out in the sun room, nestled into the cushions of a comfortable wicker chair with a bench for her work surface.  And she hums.  Yes, this child who rarely sings at church, tunelessly hums her favorite hymns as she works.  She likes to hum in the rocker when she’s touching up her work, making everything perfect.  But she’s always humming.  Hers are happy sounds.

Matthias either smooshes into the pillows of the reading nook or spreads his books across the dining room table.  He erases a lot.  Rattles his papers.  Sighs when Katelyn hums too loudly.  (He sighs a lot.)  Creaks in his chair.  His are working sounds.sounds of school

Meanwhile, I sip my coffee.  Write.  Work on Sunday school lessons.  Knit.  Work on Posh.  Post on the Expo.  Do what I do, all the while enjoying the serenity.  I love their companionship on these peaceful mornings.  It is the quintessential kindergarten scenario of parallel play.  We work alongside each other, never really interacting.  It spells warmth and comfort.  Our lives are colored in shades of happiness.  Perhaps by coloring outside the lines and spelling by heart I prove I am still a kindergartner at heart.  Mrs. French, my first teacher at the Old Rock Creek elementary school, would be so proud.

An Epic Romance

They met at a reunion in Kirtland, Ohio.  Sylvia said she thought he had the most kissable lips she’d ever seen.  “Grandma!” I exclaimed, shocked and too young to appreciate the gift she was giving me.  ‘Twas love at first sight.  He took her picture and wrote the date on a leaf.  An epic romance.  They married during a drought and guests had no rice to throw on the newlywed couple, so folks improvised with oats instead.  Theirs was an epic romance that made a difference.epic 2

Marriage is hard.  My mother divorced and remarried.  Twice.  Divorced again.  When my own marriage floundered, the example of an epic romance tethered me, and God swooped in to save the day like the real action hero we know Him to be.  After all, Bill and I didn’t promise to always love each other; we promised to always stay together.  Some days we don’t feel the love, we practice it.

We know the statistics.  Fifty percent of all marriages fail, but did you know that the percentage increases in second and third marriages?  That first tendency to throw in the towel sets a couple up for continued failure.  In our country alone, there is a divorce every 36 seconds.  That’s painful to read, isn’t it?  It’s time to stem the tide.

Our children need to see epic romances.  Children whose parents are happily married experience a fourteen percent drop in divorce.  The facts speak for themselves.  Men, always woo your honey.  Ladies, always strive to spoil your honey with kindness.  “A good marriage requires falling in love over and over again…with the same person.” (Mignon McLaughlin)  Perhaps Barbara De Angelis said it best:  “Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb.  It isn’t something you get.  It’s something you do.”  The little things that keep sparks flying are also noticed by little eyes, who are learning about life.  About marriage, about real romance.  About epic romances.


We Need a New Holiday

Today is World Mosquito Day…is that even a holiday?  Seriously?  Who are these people?  Personally, I’m not entirely sure God created mosquitoes.  I think they might be some aberration from the fall, a miniature hummingbird type of insect that started drinking human blood instead of nectar, right out of a horror movie.

Face it.  We live in a dying world.  Even if you don’t believe in creation science, the second law of thermodynamics imparts a truth about entropy and degeneration affirming that same concept.  So I get maggots.  I get vultures.  I just don’t get mosquitoes, nor do I wish to honor them with a day of recognition.  It’s like saying, “Yes, this is the day we honor yellow fever.”  Or how about, “This is national plague day, because we love it so much.”

To right this wrong, I’m changing it.  Right here and now.  I welcome your support in my campaign to make this World Smile Day.  Smiling improves the spirits of the person who sees the smile, and get this, it also improves the mood of the person who smiles as well.  It benefits everyone.  In a world of snarling politicians, loco gunmen, nutso terrorists, and rude drivers, I think smiling ranks right up there with Mother Teresa.  Just smile.  All day long.  Through tough times, challenging encounters, red lights and dawdlers in aisles.  Smile through Facebook; I know it’s hard.  Smile at arguing children.  Just smile.

I found seven physiological benefits derived from this small change in your day:  Smiling improves mood, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, enhances your immune system, lowers pain thresholds, improves relationships, and increases longevity.  Even when you feel like it’s a plastic smile, just paste it on a cranky face without a trace of genuine good will, and the smile begins its work.  Study after study confirms that any smile triggers these benefits.

This gal’s laughter is absolutely infectious!

I find it no accident that many of my smiles come from little ones who know what a good belly laugh sounds like, who smile so willingly, who model a life of joy.  When I need a manufactured smile I think of them, and it just floats to the surface.  I challenge you to find your happy place and do likewise.

Show some teeth today!  Let’s not celebrate mosquitoes, those dratted blood suckers.  Let’s celebrate smiles and make it our new holiday!

smile 2
These little beauties always bring a smile to my face.

Word Meanings

Gone.  A word with new meaning.  This morning a song from Fiddler on the Roof hums through my mind.  “One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”  The beginning of a new year, which for me occurs at the start of the school year, not January 1st, gives rise to introspection.

Our next milestone is September 12.  Six months since Alma’s passing.  I’ve learned “gone” is not “the pie has been eaten.”  I can always bake more pie.  “Gone” is not “he just pulled out of the driveway.”  Cars return.  Gone assumes an infinite proportion when you lose a child.alma

Gone really means never again.  Never again will I catch a glimpse of my son working on a project in his shop.  Never again will he plop down and say, “What do you need, Mom?”  Never again will I see his crooked smile.  Never again will I hear his understated little phrase, “Well, that’s unfortunate,” when something goes wrong.

I weep less often now.  I try to keep my sorrow out of conversation.  I work on being brave.  I try to write about happy things.  Life moved on for everyone else, but here I am, a first grader in life stuck with new word meanings.  Gone means never again.  Who knew?