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.




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.


Five Ways to Get More Done

A strong work ethic speaks volumes.  Whether you want a raise at work, want to impress your boss, or look for profits within your own business, your work ethic is the most accurate predictor of success.  If you are a stay at home mom, the same holds true.  At the end of the day, you want some tangible evidence that your presence mattered.  Something accomplished.  As both a small business owner and a sort of stay at home mom, I understand.

While we all have days…or months…when we find ourselves hard pressed to list any fruitful accomplishment, you can increase the efficacy of your labors with just a few tweaks to your daily routine.  That’s right.  I’m not talking about becoming the next Steve Jobs…just a few simple actions make a big difference.

My number one tip:  Make a list the night before.  This is nothing new.  Ever since Ivy Lee implemented this process in a Charles Schwaab company, it’s been the gold standard of increased productivity.  I find it doesn’t really matter if I list 5 tasks, prioritize the tasks, or even fanatically pursue them when I bolt out of bed.  Just making the list helps me focus.  I automatically begin my day in a productive way.

Finish what you start.  My second tip  is still nothing new.  But what a difference it makes.  I remember going through a tub in the basement looking for a particular color of embroidery thread.  To my horror, I found three projects I’d abandoned.  Lost interest.  Lost my focus.  Abandoned.  That changed me.  I started forcing myself to finish what I started, be it large or small, and was astonished at how much more I actually accomplished in all of life.

Put it away when you’re done.  Nothing destroys my productivity like not being able to find the tool, the advertisement, the thing I’m looking for…and I hate it when I find it buried under other things.  We all have a secret place where we stash trivia in a hurry.  Sometimes it’s a kitchen drawer…or in my case, a room!  Either way, it hinders me getting things done when I waste time LOOKING for what I need. Grrrrr!  I hate that!!  I’m learning to put things away.

Do it now!  Whether you’re a Nike lover or not, I live by this!  The Bible calls it being instant in season.  If I realize I have something to do, I routinely do it NOW.  At the end of the day, if I tally up things I did because it needed to be done, like folding laundry, and things I did NOW, because it crossed my mind, I find one list always surpasses the other.  Can you guess which one?

jazzFind a good role model.  We had the privilege of sharing our home with a college student from Taiwan for two years.  Her work ethic put me to shame.  Driven to achieve her goals, I saw her refine her English, learn to drive, push for A’s in every subject, plan a double major…grow into a very accomplished young woman.  When I think I might not be able to get something done, I imagine what Jazz would do.  She’d get up earlier.  She’d stay up later.  She’d get it done.

In short, YOU decide what your day will look like.  Yes, there will be distractions.  Yes, a few divine appointments.  Maybe a few train wrecks.  There are still enough hours in the day to make it a winner.  Just do it!

How to Sleep Like a Babe

Sleep.  Regarded as essential for good health and mental well being, folks in simpler times slept a lot more than any of us.  They hit the feathers when it got dark and arose at dawn, and today we who are rich in things find that sleep, most coveted of all, eludes us.  According to an old Irish proverb, and I am  Irish, A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.  I concur.  Yet sleep eludes us all at one time or another. F. Scott Fitzgerald summed it up correctly when he penned, “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”

Ah yes.  Those who know me best mock the whole concept that I, most sleepless of all, might impart wisdom on such an unmerited topic.  But who better to plumb the secrets of sleep?  My husband falls asleep like Cora’s dolls.  Lay him down, his eyes close, and he’s gone.  Believe me, as adept as he is at sleeping, he has no secrets to impart.  Only the sleepless qualify as real experts on the topic.

As the weirdest of all weird creations, if I go three nights without sleep, I forget how it’s done.  Crazy, right?  My idiosyncratic sleep is a lifelong pattern.  As a small child I can remember prowling the house in the dark, marveling at the shadows and looking at objects as new and unrecognizable works of art.  Never afraid, I became a little wandering Jew.  My mom said she often found me whittling my way through a loaf of bread, happily rocking in the living room and looking out at the brightening yard.  But at that age I took naps, a priceless and seldom utilized commodity at 68 years of age.  Now I really need to sleep and my longstanding pattern proves a curse.

Yes, I uphold all the nightly rituals.  My nightly personal hygiene is completed in exactly the same steps every night.  I make sure my room is dark and cool.  I turn on my trusty noise machine.  I straighten my covers and keep my pillow at precisely the right angle.  I yawn to prime the pump.  I take four deep, slow breaths to simulate sleep.  Then I close my eyes expectantly and wait.  Half an hour later I anxiously peek at the clock, and yup, I’m still awake.  An hour drifts by with mounting tension.  About 3:00 am I start getting nervous.  Is my old friend coming or not?  About 5:30 I finally drift off for a single sleep cycle (90 minutes of sleep), hardly a decent nap mind you, and then I start the day all over again.  Did you catch the tips?

  1.  Utilize a nightly ritual of how you prepare for sleep.  Never vary that routine.
  2.  Prepare a dark and cool room.
  3.  Add noise to mask sounds.
  4.   Fix linens a particular way.

Many take aids like valerian, melatonin, lavender tea, and so on.  I tried them all, and incorporated some into my nightly regimen.  I do slather on a lavender cream.  I do take 10 mg of melatonin.  I think individual chemistry varies so much that what works for one fails another.  I recommend experimenting and finding what works for you.cora sleep

In pinning down why I don’t sleep, I base it all on one word.  Stress.  I do a lot.  We are processing and still healing from Alma’s death.  His wife’s changes require adaptation and usually end up being sources of additional grief.  Our future remains uncertain.  Little wonder sleep mocks me so.  Cora experiences little stress.  All life’s needs miraculously appear as ordered.  No weighty decisions need be made.  Faith and breathing are synonymous.

If stress is the culprit in your own war on sleep, stay tuned for future blogs…I am researching and distilling information for you.  In the meantime, reap what you can from my tips on cultivating sleep.  If you see me, don’t assume I am awake.  I am not asleep, but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.

Three Reasons Why Nothing Phases Me Pleases Me

No one who knows me would doubt that I love Posh.  I do, but please realize my Posh addiction is not based on blind endorsement of every product.  As a matter of fact, not every product is a favorite; but Posh has hit it out of the park with a new anti-aging serum–Nothing Phases Me.  Let’s look at value, ingredients, and results.

Posh loves to say everything is under $24, and in line with that, the new face serum is super affordable.  For an anti-gravity cholesterol serum, the price point alone makes Posh a winner.  It works out to 1 ounce/30 ml  for $24.  Perricone MD runs $89 at Ulta.  Dollar for dollar, Posh wins hands down.  Its value simply cannot be beat.

Ingredients require some research.  Nothing Phases Me contains three types of crystal-encapsulated cholesterol, blueberry extract, and phaseshyaluronic acid.  The two I see most often paired for exceptional skincare are Vitamin C (in the blueberry extract) and hyaluronic acid.  This show-stopping duo caught my immediate attention.  Percentages of each compound are deemed proprietary information, so we have to look at results to judge its efficacy.

I can only share my own personal results.  I can feel it seeping into my skin, always a good sign.  I put it on underneath my moisturizer and like the way it glides on.  I refuse to post before and after photos, because replicating exact conditions seems impossible–they end up looking faked or lame, so what’s the point?  Besides, I’m camera shy.  Instead, let me offer you samples and a personal promise.  Try it.  You’ll like it!

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.

Forget the Gold Standard. Go for Orange.

We grow one crop really, really well.  Corn, with all those sweet golden kernels, is a personal fave, but it’s a matter of unrequited love.  Despite endless fertilizing, loving care and excessive weeding, corn routinely jilts us without a backward glance.  Both Bill and I like broccoli, but it’s a one-sided affair.  We like broccoli, but it sneers at us, bolting out of control without warning.  Some veggies just don’t belong in our backyard.

Surprisingly, our heavy clay soil, which sucks up organic material and digests it as if never applied, produces against all odds, abundant root crops.  Now I bear no love for any of the “ips”–turnips, parsnips, so they never appear in a Rhoads garden.  In point of fact, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we grow truly magnificent sweet potatoes.  Yup.  And we love them.  From first planting until the last yummy morsel in the belly, we enjoy these magical orange sweeties.

A good crop requires a little preparation.  Well, really, a lot of preparation.  To get you ready, start dreaming about them in the fall, because then it’s Thanksgiving and then it’s Christmas and if you pause to catch your breath, you’ll be behind schedule.  To avoid that problem, I like to start in early December.  If you prefer growing them to buying them at a local grocery store…here’s the low down:

  • Start a couple sweet potatoes skewered with toothpicks over quart jars of water, much like growing an avocado seed.  I start mine before Christmas.  Keep water levels steady while it grows a jar full of roots.
  • As green shoots sprout, pinch them off at the base, and root them in water.
  • By mid-February you need to be planting them in pots to harden before transplanting them into the garden.
  • Transplant your precious babies or purchase slips to plant just around Mother’s Day.
  • Weed well just before they vine out of control.  You’ll thank me later.
  • Harvest before the moles get hungry.  Fair warning.  Their funny shapes crack us up.
  • After harvest you need to lay them out in a warm place, about 75 to 80 degrees, to let them sweeten up.
  • Wrap individually in newspaper and store them in a dry place.

sw pot 1Ours last all winter and all summer besides.  We grow Goliaths of majestic proportions, and right now we are finishing up last year’s harvest.  As usual, all the ones too big to use as bakers remain.  This is my favorite way to handle the biggies, and yes, we gorged ourselves with half a cookie sheet of these just the other night.  Thinking you might be interested, here’s the recipe:

Roasted Savory Sweet Potatoessw pot 2

Cut up the sweet potato into chunks.  Dribble with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and garlic pepper.  My favorite blend comes from an Italian neighbrohood in St. Louis, and it offers just the right blend between savory and sweet.  Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and chow down!


My Top 5 Reasons to Change the Way You Read

Educators and home schoolers alike know this simple truth:  Teach a child to read, to read voraciously, and he will learn independently all his life.  Voracious readers are quirky readers.  I know it well.

Aaron, our firstborn, fell in love with Jim Kjelgaard.  Big Red taught him compassion, loyalty, and about overcoming obstacles.  He proceeded to work his way through every Kjelgaard novel over time.  I recommend a few books of personal ownership.  Don’t get me wrong.  We visited the library every week and exited with a bag full of books each time, but there’s something about a dog-eared well loved book that captures a place in a child’s heart.  If your child likes animals, by all means, check this out!

Katelyn’s current fave is a series about personified dragonets, who exemplify a full gamut of human emotions: love jealousy, fear, loyalty, deceit.  I recommend them cautiously.  Talk about them.  What better way to learn how to deal with tricky emotions than to read, see, and discuss together?

Sadly, many of us escape the classroom of mandatory reading lists and slide backwards into constantly reading for pleasure, if at all.  We read our news online in short snippets lacking depth and varied viewpoints.  A recent online study stated 24% of all American adults report they didn’t read one book, or even part of a book in the last year.  (Can you sense my horrified face here?)  Here’s the problem:  Little eyes watch what you read.  Nothing preaches an indolent reading program more than an adult reading nothing but titles for pleasure.  Whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor…and I think that includes all of us…your habits influence all the youngsters around you. When our sons were young I followed a strict reading regimen of pleasure, inspirational, how to, and classic with daily Bible study.  I still like the plan, but I no longer force myself into that same sequence.

Why should you change the way you read?

  1. Reading a book to educate or broaden your horizons each month keeps your mind facile.  Whether you want to learn a new calligraphy font or how to overhaul the engine in your Camaro, learn something new.  Reading about current issues by different authors forms the basis for an educated electorate, a prerequisite for our republic.  Read a book.
  2. An inspirational book continues your personal development and makes you a better person.  We could all profit from some self improvement.
  3. A well written and timeless classic embodies universal values.  Its seamless style helps you appreciate other books and provides a measuring stick by which all literature is better judged.
  4. Daily reading of scripture puts the Word into not just your mind, but your heart as well.
  5. Little eyes watch you.  Always.  Whether they know you or not.  Set an example worthy of emulation.words

Be an avid reader.  Be a lover of words, the hallmark of our evolution into the people we are meant to be.  Follow a well balanced reading regimen.  In short, change the way you read.

A New School Year…Love it or Hate it?

A younger version of me loved the start of school.  Crisp leaves, new pencils, new clothes, the scent of new books…it inspired me and made me smile.  As a long time veteran of home schooling, I now dread the start of school:  August heat, using up last year’s pencils with no erasers, moaning children…there isn’t enough coffee for this.  The part I actually look forward to?  Getting it over with!

We school year round, taking off just a little bit for summer camps, federal holidays and such.  I get Fridays off for good behavior.  Let’s not forget that, always a plus, but basically we school year round.  In Missouri the new year rolls over August first, so we start a fresh year the first full week of August.  No crisp leaves, just lots of hot muggy days.  It profoundly lacks the inspiration I need.hs

Pristine books should excite my kiddos, but keeping it real here–it just foreshadows many months ahead of filling in blank pages.  Don’t get me wrong, they like learning new things.  But the whole process of getting down to business, scouring a book for the correct answer, thinking it through, answering it in their own words…neatly…just isn’t fun.  Home schooling begins with fun hands-on learning, and some of that always exists, but eventually a transition into the ability to take a subject and excel in a college classroom takes the front seat.  Yes, the process is exhausting and challenging and a hair pulling endeavor.  Tangentially, training children for a successful future, putting prayer and scripture study into the daily “classroom” regimen, having time for breaks when we need them and TIME to actually be with them makes it all worthwhile.  When I scold a feisty little girl for not doing her best and it ends with her hugging and kissing me, repentant and wanting to do a good job, I know it’s a struggle I love.  This is what I tell myself the first full week of August.  Breathe.  It’s one week.  I love it, really.  About 51 weeks a year.