In Case You Missed It

In case you missed some of the posts on the blog this week, here are links to them to help you catch up:

Sunday: a series of phrases I never, ever thought I’d utter as a mom.

Monday: I am determined to be a writer, but sometimes life gets in the way.

Tuesday: I featured a favorite photographer, Sven Berger, for the Tell Me More About feature.

Wednesday: I hope to someday photograph families in their natural environment

Wednesday: I shared some thoughts from a friend on the doubts Christians can have.

The doom and gloom park ranger and the kindness of strangers

We were all walking toward a destination that day and some of us weren’t sure toward what but we kept walking, sure it would be worth the long, hot, sweaty and bug infested journey.

“It’s not very far,” my husband had said, excited for me to see the site he and my son had visited a month earlier,

After 20 minutes of walking I asked him for his personal definition of “not very far.”

Rising up beside us were hillsides of trees and bare shale. Between them was a type of desert of rock with a small swath of water traveling through as if Bob Ross had painted it there, “right there with just a little bit of brown and green just like this.”

The path was shadowed by a high canopy of trees that made it look like we were walking down a long majestic corridor in a castle only the high ceilings and walls were tree branches instead of marbled stone and columns.

The youngest decided she was too good for walking and used her dad as her personal serf, head on his shoulder as he carried her almost every step of the way.

At the beginning of the trail, where my son noticed later that everyone was still happy and perky and full of anticipation instead of exhaustion, a man took a photo of his family with a series of smaller waterfalls as the backdrop.

I felt he needed to be in the photo, to show he was there for future generations, and with a surge of courage I usually lack I walked over and asked if he would like to get in the photo with his family. He and his family seemed pleasantly surprised and he took the offer and handed me the phone, asking if I knew how to use it, which I did since it was exactly like mine only the version that is practically as big as an infants’ head. The photographer and former small town reporter in me kicked in and I found myself counting “one-two-three” like I often do during sessions with families or how I used to do when photographing large groups made up of small children who need their attention grabbed.

As I turned to leave the man asked if we would like a family photo as well. I took the offer and felt maybe what he had felt a few moments before, a deep appreciation for the kindness of strangers that sometimes we imagine doesn’t exist anymore, if we based or views on media coverage and what people type when protected by a thousand miles and technology.

After becoming disenchanted and depressed about the state of the human race, based at least on recent behaviors on Facebook, it felt good to do something nice for strangers, not motivated by their point of view or political stance. I didn’t know anything about them and they didn’t know anything about me and I liked that because we didn’t need to. All we knew was we saw someone in need, even if it was in need of a simple family photo, and we helped.

When we finally reached our destination the sun came out bright and scalding on our heads and I ended up feeling dizzy and lightheaded. The observation deck to look up at the 100 foot waterfall was maybe a hundred foot walk in the blazing heat and all of us were thirsty, tired and dripping with sweat by the time we stood at the barriers and listened to a park ranger shout at an adventurous photographer to come back from the forbidden area on the other side of the barrier.


She came back, obviously angry at the public scolding but most of us were too hot to focus on her infraction, nor did we blame her seeking a closer look. Once back on to the wooden observation area the park ranger regaled is with heartwarming tales of how a woman had died in that same spot eight years ago when rocks fell on her and crushed her. The rocks are loosened when it’s hot out because there is no mud or dirt to hold them in place, he said, and then pointed down toward the narrow stream along the wide rock bed that signs said was once a sea and told us a woman had died there just last Wednesday.

Emboldened, you might say, by the stories, most of us walked briskly back toward the trail, and the shade, looking above us for falling rocks, or falling people since there is also a trail high up along the fragile edge of this cavernous site and some of us weren’t sure if the ranger also had a story of rocks giving way under anyone on that trail and them plunging to their doom. Lesson learned? Don’t cross barriers at New York State parks because the rangers are obviously under orders to tell you disturbing stories about hikes that started as a nice family day but endedin certain death.

We headed back, leaving the dirt and gravel trail for the rock bed and the water, letting the children walk in it and slide across the mossy surfaces.

Encouraged by my previous encounter I offered to take another photograph for a hiker, this time a mom with a rambunctious and squirmy three or four year old who didn’t want to pose for a selfie with her. I asked him where their dog was, standing with a friend of theirs behind me, and that stopped his protests long enough for him to point the dog out and look toward the camera while his very pregnant mom held him.

Along the rock bed were piles of rocks made of various sizes. Not too long ago I had read what these piles meant but now I couldn’t remember. I asked the pregnant mom and we both agreed we had read something on Facebook but now we’d both forgot. We both obviously had minds like steel traps and I was a bit disappointed to admit I had the same memory capability as a nine month pregnant woman.

I finally remembered the technology in my hand and used the limited cell service to google it. What came up was the term “cairn” and an article by a very annoyed and uptight person in Smithsonian Magazine who said they are usually built as memorials but when placed along trails they create confusion for hikers and can lead to peril. I imagined the article was written by the park ranger we had encountered.

Cairns, by definition, the article, and other, less frustrated sources say, are a “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.” The word is based in middle Gaelic, the article said, which surprised me since I didn’t know there were different levels of Gaelic.


Native Americans also use the stone formation to mark the graves of their dead. My son and I, still thinking about the ranger’s story hoped that wasn’t the case here.

Once out of the water and back on the trail, my son said “do you know how I know we are close to the end?”

“How?” I asked.

“Everyone still looks happy.” He said

But we were still happy, even after the long walk up and back. My daughter even pointed out “mama still happy.”

And I was. Mainly because no one had had to call an ambulance to retrieve me but also because we’d had a family day and no one had fallen off a ledge or even scraped their leg or been bit by a wild animal.

There is always another day and another adventure for that.

Don’t stop asking if you can hug me

There we were driving over the back roads to the small Christian school my son attends and just like that summer was over.

Sure we had one more day before school officially began but on that humid summer night I felt a tight feeling in my chest and knew it was because the carefree days when I could hug him on a whim anytime throughout the day had come to an end for another year.

Here we were – his fifth grade year.

Fifth grade.


I felt a catch in my spirit. I mentally reached out for an imaginary lever to slow it all down but like usual the lever wouldn’t work.

I was sure it had only been a few weeks since I’d walked him into that school for the first time, him frightened and crying because he didn’t want me to leave. I cried too, all the way home, and at home.

At the end of each day I picked him up and he ran fast to me across the gym with his arms wide open and the widest, most excited smile on his face.

His hair was soft against my cheek and I loved the way he leaned into me, his comfort at the end of a long day.

On this night, a parents night to learn more about the new year and meet new staff, he ran away from me to see what was new. He’s independent now, excited for a new year and in some ways he doesn’t need Mom anymore.

But then there are those nights I hear him at my bedroom door and he tiptoes into the darkness and I ask what’s wrong.

“Can I have a hug?” he’ll ask, like he often does throughout the day, no matter where we are.

 “I just need a hug,” he says, and I know he wants to sleep next to me for the rest of the night.

I give him the hug and let him sleep next to me because I know one day he won’t want me to hug him or hold him, at least not very often .

I kiss his head on those nights and I feel his hair soft against my cheek and I close my eyes.

I breathe it all in because for these few moments, maybe a few hours, he needs me to be his comfort again.

Money saving tips: Don’t be afraid to buy cheaper cuts of meat, your veggies whole

Panic set in when money got tight this last year but after a lot of prayer I’ve been learning more about how to save money and reduce expenses. This learning is a long process that is coming in stages.

Currently my money saving focus is on groceries and household items.

Groceries is one of the biggest expenses for our family, and probably most families, so that’s where I first started looking for ways to save. While groceries are expensive overall anymore, the highest costs are in the meat department. In the past I didn’t pay much attention to the cost of meat per pound but when Ihad to fit my purchases within a certain budget I knew I would need to start focusing on it.

Of course the better quality meats cost more, which was frustrating to me until I started to watch a couple of cooking shows and learned that meats that are thought of as “lower quality” can be used to create a variety of delicious meals.

There are many sites and cook books available to help you use not only cheaper cuts of meat to make amazing meals, but also supporting ingredients and dishes.

Stretching these cuts of meat by cutting them up and freezing them for later can also reduce the grocery budget.

I try to cook mainly Paleo meals for my family since gluten, dairy and sugar cause different health issues for each of us. If a recipe isn’t Paleo, I do my best to adapt it to fit our food lifestyle (I am not a fan of calling Paleo a diet, because I don’t eat that way to lose weight, but simply to feel better).

Because the rest of my family is not full Paleo, not every meal I cook adheres to the Paleo guidelines. I do add wheat and dairy to some meals, but avoid it for myself.

If you’re wondering what Paleo even means, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo has a great explanation on her blog

Michelle’s blog  is a new source for me for meal planning after she turned me on to cooking with an Instapot via her Facebook live videos. I purchased the Instapot this past week (no, I am not getting any kind of payment from them) and am excited to see how it not only saves on time, but money, in relation to preparing meals for our family.

You can find her instapot recipes HERE.

About a year ago I read some invaluable information on a blog about cutting food expenses. One of the suggestions was to buy meats with the bone still in and skin still on and cut the meat up yourself to avoid the butcher passing the cost of cutting up the meat on to you. It’s the same for vegetables and fruits which are priced higher if you purchase them already cleaned and cut for you. While convenient, buying your meats,  vegetables and fruit prepackaged can increase your grocery budget. It’s also not always the healthiest option as sometimes extra sugar or preservatives are added to keep the products “more fresh” for a longer period of time.

Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman, recently opened my eyes to cost saving ways to use various cuts of beef,  the highest priced meat on the market. In the past I cooked an entire roast in a crockpot and sometimes used the leftovers for vegetable beef stew. Based on Ree’s ideas I’ve started buying a roast and then cutting it into either cubes for stew, slices for breakfast steak (haven’t tried this yet) or strips for stir fry. For chicken I have been buying split chicken breasts with the bone and skin still on, deboning it and then either keeping the breast whole or slicing it into tenders or chunks. I can use the chunks for chicken spiedies (if you’re not from the Northeastern part of the United States you can find a definition of those HERE), to add to salads, to make chicken nuggets or to add to a one-pan bake.

I plan to buy whole chickens in the future and cut them up into the cuts I want to use later. Tips on how to cut up and entire chicken or roast or debone chicken and fish, can be found on many sites online, including video tutorials like this one by Gordon Ramsey on YouTube (no swear words in this series, but beware of his salty language in other YouTube clips, of course.). Tips on how to cook a variety of recipes and food can also be found on YouTube.

A few YouTube video tips I’ve enjoyed include:

How to make the perfect rice by Gordon Ramsey;

How to make the perfect omelet by Jamie Oliver (apparently I like the British chefs).

How to make crackling chicken by Nom Nom Paleo.

Adding vegetables or beans, rice or fruitcan help stretch your meat and budget even more. When it comes to vegetables and fruit savings, a great idea is either growing your own and freezing them for later or stocking up on your favorites when they are on sale and freezing them for later.  Buying items you use a lot of when they are on sale is one way my parents, who are on a fixed income, save money. This tactic can be used for groceries, household items, clothing, and just about any other needed product (versus wanted ones.)

Another great idea by Ree to stretch the budget, and make sure you get your veggies, is to make one pan meals with ingredients all piled into a roasting pan. You can find her one pan recipes on her site here.

I will make a quick disclaimer about Ree’s recipes – they are not Paleo in the least and often not super healthy. If you have watched her show or bought her cookbook you know she uses tons of flour, grains, dairy and sugar. Despite the fact I try not to use any, or at least less, of these ingredients I enjoy watching her Food Network show and reading her blog (which I followed before she became famous) . She offers some money and time saving tips, I enjoy her posts about her family, she seems very authentic in how she presents herself and I can often “hack”

her recipes to fit my family’s eating style.  

I’ve given you a few ideas I’ve been using to reduce our grocery budget, now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear some of your tips in the comments or on my Facebook page at and with your permission I’ll use them in a future blog post about ways to save money.

He listened to hear. Remembering a Wyalusing treasure

The line to the funeral home stretched down a long sidewalk to the driveway and inside there were more lines, weaving through rooms, people waiting to tell his family what he had meant to them.

We only have one life to live and he’d lived his well.

Was he perfect?

No human is.

But he was loved and loved back.

He smiled and laughed and made days better.

He made my days better when I saw him at council meetings or fire department events.

He made my dad laugh and shake his head often when they were in school together and afterwards.

Sometimes when you read someone has died you feel a twinge of sadness and you mourn briefly and gently because you knew of them but didn’t know them. Other times you read someone has died and you look down to see who just kicked you in the chest. You realize that ache right there in the center of your heart is your spirit cringing in shock and grief.

Tears rising from somewhere deep in your soul and they come suddenly, without warning.

That’s how I’ve felt before and how I felt last week when I read about the sudden passing of Wayne Felter, a friend of my dad’s and the cornerstone of the community I used to work in.

We’d stand outside council meetings during executive sessions, him and I, and Dave, the publisher of the weekly newspaper, the man who later became my boss. Wayne would tell stories about pretty much everything and Dave would often stop him and remind him I was there, young and a female. I guess Dave was trying to protect me from Wayne’s more salty tales, but few of them were inappropriate. 

Many times the story would end with “you ask your dad about that. That’s a true story.” 

And I would ask Dad and he would say “it’s true … for the most part” and wink at me. 

I never made it to talk to his family that day, due to a hot and tired toddler squirming in my arms and the long, winding lines.

I’m not sure what I would have said if I had reached them. I didn’t know them well enough to offer much more than a brief condolence and to be honest I was feeling selfish.

I glanced only once at the casket, only briefly from a distance and saw him motionless there. In those few seconds I knew that wasn’t how I wanted to remember him. I wanted to remember his smile, the twinkle in his eye when he was about to say something inappropriate for the moment or tease me, and his laugh when he’d succeeded in making someone else laugh.

As my dad said, Wayne made people who met him feel like they were worth talking to. He would seek people out simply to say “hello” and that made them feel special. There aren’t many people who do that anymore.

Today many people are distracted, uninterested and thinking about what they’re going to say next when someone is talking to them.

They listen to speak but don’t listen to really hear.

Wayne listened and heard and usually found a way to laugh at what he’d heard.

I will have to remind myself now when I visit Wyalusing that he’s not around anymore.

At least not physically.

The people of his tiny community will still see him, though.

Anyone who knew him, even only a little, will still see him.

They’ll see him when someone is sliding down frozen streets when they were supposed to be cindering or when someone is making a joke although others think the moment calls for seriousness.

They’ll see him when someone is laughing with a waitress or joking with the customers at the local diner. 

They’ll see him in his children and his grandchildren.

And they will see him when someone stops and listens – really listens – making a person feel they are worth being listened to. 

Mom guilt is the best

I totally pulled the grandma-wouldn’t-want-you-to-do that card this week.


Little Miss is in a mean phase.

At least I hope it’s a phase.

When she wants to sit somewhere her brother is sitting she shoves him until he moves. When she wants what her brother has she takes it.  When she wants to play with his Legos she tries to shove him out of the way so she can stand at his Lego table.

She doesn’t do this with other children. Only her brother. 

He’s eight years older than her. She doesn’t care. The age gap doesn’t intimidate her.

She is a bully.

I’ve been reading articles and wracking my brain how to teach her not to be mean. So far it’s been time outs and long talks asking her how she’d feel if her brother was mean to her instead.

But the other night I changed my strategy, one my own mother has been grooming me for since I was born.

I used mother guilt.

I knew it would all be worth it one day.

My son was hugging me at bedtime, laying across me, and his sister didn’t want him to hug me so she stuck her toes in his armpits and pushed hard with her foot, trying to dislodge him.

That’s when brilliance struck. I felt very proud of myself when I said:  “Oh my, this would make Grandma so sad. She thinks you are just the sweetest little girl and if she saw you being mean to your brother she would be so disappointed and so sad.”

She continued to push but was watching me and I could tell she was thinking.

 “She would. She says you’re so sweet and your brother loves you…she’d just be upset.”

 “Grandma? She’d be upset?” She asked. Her legs weren’t pushing as hard now. “With me?”

 “Sad, yes,” I said. “Not mad, but very disappointed and sad.”

She took her toes out of his armpits and lowered her legs.

“Oh my! Grandma would be upset at me! She’d be sad!”

She turned to her brother.

“Grandma is upset at me! She sad!”

The mother guilt was getting a little out of hand so I reassured her Grandma would be happy now because she had stopped being mean to her brother.

“Oh. Okay.”  She said, hesitantly relieved. 

I’m quite pleased my tactic worked.

For now.

I may not be as happy when the therapy bills start coming in though.

However, none of my therapy bills were related to my mom’s superior mom guilt so I think it will be okay.