Why I have gray hair – reason no. 30

I heard it before I saw it and knew at that moment I’d made a mistake letting my 4-year old jump from the couch to the metal barstool we’d never actually used at a bar since we didn’t have one. I saw her hanging over the bottom rungs of the chair, now on its’ side, like a limp rag doll, and yelled for my son to help because I figured that in his youth he could move faster. He wasn’t there, though, and by the time I got to her she had lifted herself up and was standing with her hair in her face and her mouth open while she tried to scream, but no sound would come out.

A bright red river of blood was streaming a path from her nose to her mouth and I wasn’t sure if she had ripped her nose or her lip open.

Always cool under pressure, I started to scream “Help me! Help me!” over and over, yelling for my son to call his dad at work. He, having been upstairs for what he’d hoped to be a relaxing visit to the bathroom, was a frazzled mess and stumbled to find one of our phones.

“Grace. Face bleeding.” He shouted into the phone and hung up.

Somehow I had mentally slapped myself out of my hysteria and asked for a box of tissues, snatched one and held it against my daughter’s nose, noting I had smeared blood above her eyebrow as I’d pulled her close for a hug and examination.

knew that in order for her to calm down that I had to calm down and suddenly I went into robot mode. Wipe face. Hold nose, ask what hurt and what she had hit. She said her nose and her ear so I examined both appendages and saw blood caked along the edge of the nose and the tip of it swelled some, but otherwise it seemed fine. The ear didn’t have the gash I worried I would see. 

My husband burst through the door a few minutes later and we checked her out together while she cried. A popsicle and a cartoon helped her calm down.

A half an hour later she was in the kitchen twirling in circles next to the counter, an inch from smashing her face in again.

“Excuse me. We’ve already had one bloody nose. Are you trying to get another one?” I asked.

And that’s when I felt it – another gray hair pop up on top of my head.

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Risen 3

For the first part of this work in progress click HERE. For the second part, click HERE.


The busy sounds of people rushing by to complete their daily chores quieted as Jairus pushed the door to the synagogue closed. He leaned against the door and closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to quiet his racing thoughts.

Jairus focused on the words he had said to Josefa the night after the teacher had healed her.

Healed her? Brought her back to life?

Is that really what had happened?

Even now it was all too unbelievable to him.
He wondered, did he really believe this man, this Jesus was the true Messiah as he had told Josefa?

Maybe he had been wrong to say so. He’d spent his whole life studying the scrolls, learning of Moses and Elijah, about the prophesies of the Messiah. Now here he was almost completely convinced the man he had followed in the street, begging for him to come and heal his only daughter was indeed the Messiah. He knew he was being ridiculed behind his back by the other leaders of the synagogue for asking for Jesus’ help but he couldn’t deny what he had witnessed that day.

He remembered Josefa’s fever and how she’d no longer been able to stand. Miriam, his wife, had soaked cloth and laid it across Josefa’s forehead, hoping the cool water from the stream would revive her. For days they sat by her cot, holding her hand, Miriam weeping as Josefa moaned and faded in and out of consciousness.

 

“You know I told you about this teacher, this man they call Jesus? Miriam, are you listening? He’s been healing people. I saw him heal a man’s hand in the synagogue last week. The leaders were upset because it was the sabbath, but I saw the man’s hand. It was diseased, scarred, withered but Jesus held it, touched it and the hand was whole again.”

 

Miriam dabbed her eyes with her shawl as her husband spoke, barely listening as she watched her daughter’s breathing become more and more shallow. Dark circles were now under Josefa’s eyes.

 

“I will go to him, ask him to come,” Jairus was speaking again. He was pacing the floor, rubbing and pulling at the hairs of his beard as he always did when thoughts overwhelmed him.

 

“Do we now believe in such men who call themselves healers?” Miriam asked, weary from worry.

 

Josefa’s body shuddered with a convulsion. Miriam rushed to her, held the girl’s small frame against her chest. Josefa’s breathing became labored, shallow. Jairus saw the panic in his wife’s eyes and felt it rising in himself as well.

“We are losing her! Go! Go to this teacher and ask him to come!” Miriam’s voice was filled with fear. “He’s our only hope now!”

Jairus’ heart pounded as he ran from the house, out onto the crowded paths, pushing his way through travelers and locals and animals being led to market. He could see a crowd around a man in front of him. They were all moving one direction, calling out “Jesus!” Questions were being asked, some voices mocked, some sounded hopeful.

An image of Josefa’s pale frame flashed in Jairus’ mind and he tried to move faster, pushing more people aside. His chest felt tight, his breath more labored. Was this man he was trying to reach a heretic as the synagogue leaders and other rabbis said? What if he was crazy like the man who was called John the Baptist, who was covered in dirt and smelled and had spoke of a healer and prophet who would come to save the Jews?

Jairus’ foot caught a stone and he felt himself falling. The sand flew into his face and pebbles cut at his palms. As he pushed himself up he felt tears hot and stinging his eyes. He would never reach Jesus now.

He saw sandal clad feet before him and looked up.

“Let me help you,” a man with kind eyes and a smile held a hand out to him.

Jairus took it and stood slowly.

“Thank you,” he barely looked at the man, instead searching the crowd to see where Jesus had gone.

“Do you seek Jesus?” The man asked.

“Yes,” Jairus said, breathless.

“Come. I’m one of his followers. I will help you to him.”

Jairus looked at the man, noticed his unkempt beard and slightly frayed clothes. He nodded at him, seeing kindness and concern in his gaze.

The man gently touched the shoulders of those around them and people began to move aside. Ahead of them Jairus saw Jesus had paused and turned to the crowd. His eyes focused on Jairus who suddenly felt unsure, uneasy. Jairus dropped his gaze to the ground, overwhelmed with worry for his daughter and overwhelmed with the presence of a man who had performed so many miracles. His body felt weak from running, from being awake for so many days watching over his daughter.

He felt his knees give way and he fell to the ground before Jesus.

Sobs wracked his body as he lost control of control his emotions.

“Jesus,” he gasped out the name.

A sob choked his words and he thought he wouldn’t be able to finish.

“Jesus, my little girl is dying. Please. Come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

He felt tears rush down his face and he was startled by emotions he usually tried to keep locked inside.

He felt a hand on his head, on the covering he wore there.

“Come, rise and let us go to her,” Jesus voice was calm, gentle.

 

His followers helped Jairus to his feet and Jesus motioned for him to lead the way to his home. The crowd surged around Jesus and they all began to move with him, as if one combined force, following Jairus. Several moments of chaos followed and Jairus felt a rush of frustration as the crowd pushed between him and Jesus.

“Jesus! What does God ask of us?”

“Jesus, what happens when we die?”

“Jesus, will I find wealth?”

People cried out as they walked. They pushed against each other, each person wanting to get closer to the man so many were talking about.

“Who touched me?”

Jairus faintly heard Jesus’ voice over the noise of the crowd but he could barely hear what he was saying. He tried to push forward in the crowd, looking over his shoulder every few steps to see if Jesus was following.

 

“I felt power go from me,” Jesus spoke louder to one of his followers. He stopped and turned to look behind him. “Who has touched me?”

The people in the crowd murmured and grew quiet.  Jairus stopped to see why Jesus wasn’t following.

“Master, there are people all around you and you are asking ‘who touched me?’” one of Jesus’ disciples laughed slightly as he spoke. His tone was incredulous, tinged with annoyance.

Jairus knew this was the man called Peter – a local fisherman who now followed Jesus. Many whispered surprise Peter, known as brash and abrupt, was following a teacher of God.

“Somebody touched me, for I perceived power going out from me,” Jesus said.

His eyes scanned the crowd around him but no one answered. They looked at each other confused and unsure why Jesus was concerned.

A woman’s voice could be heard softly, barely above a whisper.

“It was me.”

“Who is speaking?” One of Jesus’ disciples asked. “Please, come forward. Answer the teacher.”

The crowd moved aside and a woman, head down, moved toward the front. She dropped to her knees, her head bowed low, her clothes tattered and stained. She clutched her hands before her and tears dripped off her face and into the dirt.

Jairus felt anxious. He wanted to grab Jesus by the arm and drag him forward, back to his house and his daughter, but at the same time he was entranced by the scene unfolding before him.

The woman glanced upwards at Jesus.
“It was me,” she said softly.

“I knew if I could just touch the hem of your robe…”

Her gaze fell again on the ground.

“I’ve been to every doctor. I’ve been bleeding for 12 years. No one will come near me, teacher. I am unclean.”

Some in the audience winced and a few stepped away from her, covered their mouths.

Tears continued to stream down her face.

“I have tried everything. I heard of your miracles and I knew – if I just touched the hem..”

Her fingertips grazed the edge of his robe again. She could barely speak as she sobbed.

“Master, the bleeding. I can feel- it’s stopped. Something is … something is …..different.”

Jairus felt his heart pounding heart and fast. If this woman was sure she had been healed, if she was saying simply touching the hem of his garment was enough to heal her then he was indeed a powerful man, a messenger of God. If healing flowed from him so easily then there was hope for Josefa.

Jesus kneeled before the woman, reached out and took her hands in his. He touched her chin and lifted her face toward his.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

Jesus kissed her forehead gently and wiped the tears from her face. He stood and helped her to stand with him.

“Go in peace.”

A sob escaped her lips and she kissed Jesus’ hand as she held it. She backed slowly away.

“Thank you. Thank you.”

A hush had settled over the crowd. Some of the women dabbed their eyes and men talked quietly to each other, shaking their heads with furrowed eyebrows.

Jairus felt a sense of urgency rushing through him, tensing his muscles. He needed Jesus to hurry. He felt at hope at what he had seen and he wanted the same for his Josefa and his family.

“Jesus, my daughter… please …”

Jesus turned toward him and nodded.

“Of course, let us go…”

Jairus felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Josiah, his servant from home, standing next to him, his face stained with tears and dirt.

“Master, there is no need to hurry now. Josefa-“ his voice trailed off and Jairus began to shake his head.

“There is no need to bother the master now,” Josiah said. “She’s – “

“No! No!” Jairus wouldn’t let him finish.

He felt bile rushing up into his throat and his hands began to shake. He pressed his hands to his head, as if trying to wake himself from a dream.

“Josefa…” he felt the tears hot on his face and he clutched his robe against him as pain seared through his chest. “Oh God. God help me.”

He looked up as Jesus touched his arm.

“Do not be afraid. Believe.”

Jesus’ eyes were kind but Jairus’ mind was reeling. If only Jesus had moved faster. If only that woman hadn’t stopped them. Josefa would still be alive and her laughter would still fill their home.

“She’s gone,” he told Jesus. “We cannot save her now. You can not heal her. If only – ”

Jesus looked over Jairus’ shoulder, his gaze moving above the crowd.

“Come, lead me to your home.”

Jairus did as Jesus told him but his legs felt as if they were weighted down. Before they even reached the corridor where his home was he could hear the wailing and knew …. Had already begun.

 

Mourners were outside the home, trying to comfort Miriam, who was clearly in shock as she pulled at her clothes and repeated “no. no. no.”
Jairus rushed toward his wife, grasped her by the shoulders and pulled her against him. She clutched at his clothes and shoved her face into his chest.

“She’s gone. She’s gone. Oh, Jairus. Our little girl is gone.”

Jesus pushed forward in the crowd. He laid his hand against Miriam’s back to comfort her.

“There is no need for tears,” he said with a gentle firmness. “The girl is not dead. She is merely sleeping.”

An angry voice shouted over the noise of the crowd.

“She’s dead! You give these people false hope!” a man shouted.  “You are a liar and a fool! Like all who have come before you!”

Other voices joined in agreement.

“You say you can heal but you only bring hallow promises to these people,” a man sneered.

Jesus stood with his back to the crowd, kneeling down beside Miriam and Jairus.

“Send these people away and come inside with me,” he instructed. “Peter, James, John, come with me.”

Jairus opened his eyes to the sound of someone moving inside the temple, interrupting his thoughts and memories of that day.

“Jairus? Is that you?”

He recognized the voice of Ezra, another leader in the synagogue.

“Yes, Ezra. Good morning.”

Ezra walked toward him holding scrolls.

“Have you come to help me organize these for the scribes?” his mouth lifted in a wry smile.

“I did not but I am glad to help,” Jairus said returning the smile.

The men laid the scrolls on the table next to a bottle of ink.

“I do not know how so much has become in disarray in here – and outside,” Ezra said.

He looked at is friend and noticed Jairus was pulling at his beard, as he often did when deep in thought.

“Tell me, Jairus. How is Josefa recovering?”

Jairus smiled. “Well. She is well. It is – dare I say it? A miracle indeed.”

Ezra nodded but his expression grew serious.

“Jairus, I must ask you – I’ve heard many talk of what happened with Josefa. Is it true, what they say? Was she dead before Jesus arrived?”

Jairus felt his muscles tense. He was unsure what Ezra hoped to learn with his questions. He pondered how to answer, but knew telling the truth might encourage Ezra to help him understand more what had happened.

“Miriam and her hand maiden said there was no breath. She was cold when I entered the home and I felt no heartbeat beneath my hand. Her skin –“ he felt his breath catch in his throat and he paused to choke back emotion. He shook his head as if to shake the image from his mind. “Her skin was pale, tinged with blue. And… so cold.”

Ezra put his hand on his friend’s arm and squeezed it slightly.

“You’ve been through much, my friend,” Ezra said.

He opened a scroll to read it’s contents, rolled it again and stuck it back in a space in the temple wall.

“What do you believe happened that day?” Ezra asked.

“I don’t know, friend. I truly don’t. All I know is she was gone and when Jesus came she arose at his bidding. He took her hand and instructed her to rise and live and she did.”

“After all you have seen .. .” Ezra paused in stacking the scrolls and turned to look to Jairus “After meeting this man who calls himself the Son of God – who do you say he is?”

Jairus realized he didn’t know how to answer. He had seen Jesus do miraculous things and heard of even more. He believed his daughter was still living because Jesus touched her, but was he truly the son of Jehovah or was he simply a great teacher, so holy Jehovah used him to heal.

He looked Ezra in the eyes, opened his mouth to answer and then closed it again.

“Ezra – I wish I could say, but truly, I do not know what to believe about this man.”

Zooma the Wonder Dog takes over to lift the winter blues

It’s been a while since Mom has let me take over the blog. For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Zooma the Wonder Dog and from time to time I like to take over the blog so you have something actually interesting to read. Shhh…don’t tell Mom I said that. You can read more of my posts (you know, the good ones on this blog) here and here and even here and oh yeah..here too.

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You’ll notice I’m calling Mom Mom now and not “mommy”. That’s because I’m finally a teenager and my childish ways are behind me. Mom says my childish ways are not behind me since she’s caught me in the trash more than once and chasing the cat more than once, as well, but I ignore her because, well, I’m a teenager. I don’t have to pay attention to what my parents say.

I know, I know. Some of you may claim you saw me running around the yard the other day, being silly and acting like a young pup again, but you’d be wrong. I was simply working out to keep myself young and trim and looking good for the boy dog I saw walking by the other day.

Mom is such a killjoy. She says I can’t be around boy dogs until I’ve been spayed. I don’t know if she has a lisp or what, but I can’t figure out what being spayed has to do with me liking to bark a hello at the boy dogs walking by. I mean spaying is what they do to keep you clean right? With water and a hose? I don’t know for sure but Mom says I’m going to be spayed in a couple of days so I’ll find out then.

I saw a dog get spayed on TV on one of those shows Plaything 2 watches and that dog had soap and warm water so I hope I get spayed like that. I’m not a fan of baths, or soap, but being spayed with water might be fun. I’ll let you know what I think about it all in my next post.

Since moving here I’ve grown pretty fond of – I mean, I’ve grown accustomed to living here with my human family. Mom and Dad are pretty cool. Dad is grumpy sometimes when I wake him up early to pee but then he’s even grumpier if I let him sleep and pee in the living room. It takes a lot to make him happy it seems. Mom doesn’t like when I rip toilet paper up all over the bathroom floor or the backyard and she keeps telling me to leave The Beast alone.

The Beast has started to love me. She has. Don’t let her tell you any different. She misses me when I’m gone – like when I went to Grandpa and Grandma’s for something everyone called Christmas. There was a lot of food there but Grandpa and Mom were the only ones who gave me any. Grandma kept reminding Mom of that time Mom said it was bad to feed me from the table.

Now I know where Mom gets her fun-killing attitude. I can’t imagine why it’s bad to feed me from the table.

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The new human Kim was nice and if I didn’t love my current family so much I’d have gone to live with her. Of course, I decided going home with her wouldn’t be so much fun since the other new human (who Mom called Butthead, but I don’t think that’s his real name), said they live with a beast even bigger than The Beast and that it would rip my face off. I don’t want my face ripped off. Then  I couldn’t sneak food from Plaything 2’s plate when she leaves it down, which is always, because she’s almost like a teenager, like me, and doesn’t listen to Mom and Dad.

Wait, did I say I love my family back there? Um…yeah..well..I know I’m a teenager, but I guess I sort of do love Mom and Dad and my human brother and human sister. And of course Grandma and Grandpa. Mom says Grandma isn’t really a “dog person” but she is now because of me. That makes me proud. I’ve clearly charmed her.

Just don’t tell my family I said I love them.

Talk to you soon.

Can’t wait to tell you about the spay and if it really makes my fur feel better or not.

Logged back on Facebook. Experienced full body shudder. Logged back off.

After 30-days of Facebook detox I logged back on this past week and almost immediately regretted it.

From someone calling someone else they disagreed with a Nazi to fear-mongering posts about health issues my heart was pounding within a few minutes and I logged back off again and reached for my Teddy Bear.

Facebook has become a landmine of stress for this anxiety-ridden soul, which may be something I need to seek out a therapist for, or it may be simply a sign I need to stay off Facebook as much as possible.

The odd thing is that I don’t even follow any controversial people or news pages so the fact every day people are now flipping out on each other over the simplest of things seems to be a sign that we’ve lost respect and decorum. Obviously this has been happening for a long time but nowhere is it more evident than in social media where people forget there are real people behind the computer or smartphone.

This latest incident involved a thyroid expert I follow who had been featured on a show people didn’t appreciate. She wasn’t exactly called a Nazi but she was told the views of the people were Nazi views, which makes me realize that this far out from World War II some people need to read some history and remind themselves what a Nazi actually is.

Since I haven’t yet seen this particular organization call for the extermination of all Jews, but in fact supports them in many ways, I don’t see how they received the Nazi label, other than this is what certain groups seem to call people now when they don’t agree with them.

Well, anyhoo, based on of the idiocy that is modern discourse and the tendency for everyone to be offended by everything, I’ve decided Facebook may be a once a month thing where I check in on some friends and family but then log back off. My blog posts and photos on Instagram are automatically shared to the platform and luckily don’t require me to log into my timeline.

If you’re going to stay on Facebook and want to avoid stress, I highly recommend avoiding scrolling your timeline and instead visit the individual pages of friends or family members. That way you can avoid being slapped in the face by bizarre articles about girls who think they are boys because a therapist told them they were, people who think anyone who wears black shoes are racist, and politicians calling each other Nazis and immoral while they all conducting themselves in immoral ways.

You can also avoid headlines like “three foods to avoid in 2019” and “What you’re eating/wearing/drinking/thinking may give you cancer” and “New test will determine what day you’ll die” and the ever popular “The end of the world is near. Read here for the signs of the end times” (save yourself some trouble with that one and see the headlines and article topics above for those signs).

Bottom line? If you don’t have to use Facebook, avoid it. Go out and experience life. Take a walk, read a book, study God’s word, watch a comedy, write a silly blog post or two about Facebook or notice you have children and play a game or two with them.

You’ll be better off for it.

I know I have been.

Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.

Why lip gloss…why?

One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.


Why, lipgloss, why?

By Tiffany Kuhn

Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.

Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing?  Yeah, I think not.

While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.

You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.

The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?

The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.

It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.

Covered bridges, old general stores and getting lost in the boonies

One way to keep your marriage fun and spontaneous is to suggest a restaurant for your anniversary dinner that’s in the middle of nowhere, has no WiFi or cell service and then forget your wallet.

My husband and I usually take our children with us or eat a family meal at home because our life is void of a reliable babysitter roster. We also usually eat somewhere in the Finger Lakes region, which is lovely, but this year I decided we should travel another direction and see what the wilds of Pennsylvania might offer us.

The location I chose (also unusual because I’ve never picked the restaurant for our anniversary) was near my parents, free babysitters who don’t usually travel to our house because of my mom’s various health issues, and a diner I had been reading about through their entertaining Facebook posts. It had been a busy week with mornings full of Vacation Bible School and afternoons of traveling to zoos 2- hours away or a nearby campground pool where we spent four hours jumping in the heated pool and we left for my parents after the final VBS and a birthday party for my husband’s great aunt.

“Are you telling her you’re leaving or are sneaking out and letting us deal with the tears?” My Dad asked, referring to our rather clingy 3-year old daughter, right before we walked out the door.

I told him “good luck” and we snuck out while my daughter was falling in love with a baby toad our son and her grandfather brought her earlier in the day. We headed out into what we call the boondocks and outsiders may call simply “the middle of nowhere” of Sullivan County, Pa., twisting and winding around roads with more curves in them than Shirley Temple’s hair. Trees and mountains shot up around us almost directly against the car window until we finally arrived in the little community of Forksville, in search of the covered bridge and nationally recognized Philadelphia cheesesteaks at the Forksville General Store. In our “neck of the woods” we don’t say “cheesesteak” without Philadelphia in front of it because in our minds no one else makes cheesesteaks.

I’m sure General Store owner, Big Mike, who runs the cash register himself, understands why we feel that way since he’s originally from Philadelphia himself and the crux of his menu is their famous original cheesesteak, a recipe he brought from Philly in 1999, and recognized as one of the top ten cheesesteaks by the USA Today.

IMG_6041I’ve been to Forksville a couple times in my life but it had been years and I almost forgot how to find the store and bridge, which is a bit humorous considering there are only about 20 houses in the village.

It wasn’t until we parked out front of the restaurant that I realized I’d left my wallet at home. This wouldn’t have been an issue except we have two checking accounts, one was empty because of bills, and we’d forgot to move money from one checking account (which acts as our savings) to the other and my husband only had the card for the account we had forgot to move money into. The card we needed was in my wallet and my wallet was 50 miles North at our house. Though we had a gift check from my parents in my purse, we had decided not to cash it on the way through the tiny town of Dushore (which used to be the only town in the county with a stoplight) because, hey, I had a card in my wallet. Only I didn’t. Because I didn’t even have a wallet with me.

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A quick inquiry inside of the man at the front counter, who we later learned was Big Mike, the owner, revealed there was no WiFi “around here” so transferring money from one account to another via our bank’s ap, wasn’t about to happen. Disappointed we almost decided to head back the 13 miles to semi-civilization where Dushore may not have had a Starbucks but it did at least have an ATM, but then I said “no! We will find a high spot somewhere in this cell service void world and transfer to that account.” This was our plan and I wasn’t about to diverge from it, no matter how high I had to hold the phone up over my head to get it.

IMG_6008When we passed a place that rented apartments and I saw three men outside, all looking at their phones, I knew they either had WiFi or were just sadly looking at their phones wishing they had WiFi. I urged my husband to pull in so we could hopefully steal off their WiFi and transfer the money. After a lot of lifting, tilting and shifting, mainly from my husband who was nervous the property manager was going to think we were there to rob the place, I was able to hook up to their open WiFi and — then get kicked off again and again and again until finally EUREKA! (Like the show because it was creepy cool) we struck gold and the connection worked.

Then it was back to the only tiny gas station in a 15 mile radius to utilize the ATM and hopefully get back to the diner before it’s kitchen closed. The only problem was I apparently moved the wrong amount of money but luckily this station also had open WiFi, which made me think maybe Big Mike should research more about the availability of WiFi in his small village a little better before he says it doesn’t exist there.

After all that drama, I had a sinking feeling we might get inside the diner and find out all the news of great food and atmosphere might have exaggerated, but no, the food did indeed live up to the hoopla. I should have known it would, since there was a photo of Big Mike with Dale Jr. on the wall in the front, next to a framed copy of a front page article on the restaurant in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If you’re reading this and you need a last name to go with Dale Jr.,

first, I shake my head at you in disappointment but second, I offer you the last name of Earnhardt. Seeing a photo of Dale with anyone in Sullivan County isn’t a total shock, really, since his sister is married to a Sullivan County native and they visit from time to time still.

The inside of the diner features a deli counter like you might see in a Philadelphia butcher and then a small dining room lit with fairy lights stretched across the ceiling and filled with tables and booths to sit about 50.

IMG_6018In the end, neither one of us actually had one of the famous Philly Cheesesteaks. Shame on us. The covered bridge hamburger sans the bun, with fries and topped with melted Mozerella cheese and the diner’s own slab bacon was my choice while the husband ordered the buffalo chicken cheesesteak. Our dinner ended in an embarrassing way when the owner came to our table with a complimentary Philadelphia style cheesecake, drizzled in plenty of chocolate, and announced to the entire dining room, with a little song, that it was our anniversary.

Only two people knew we were going to be there at that time so, of course, when we arrived back at my parents later we pretended the singing never happened, laying a trap for my mom, who I knew couldn’t resist asking “wait. The owner didn’t say anything else to you?” At that comment, the mysterious tattle teller was revealed and we knew we had her and my dad (who had actually made the call) to blame for our blushing but thank for an amazing slice of cheesecake.

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The store, built in 1841, has been revamped over the years, of course, but still sits directly next to the covered bridge, one of only a three original wooden covered bridges left in the county and now a historic landmark. The bridge is one lane only and when we sat under it after dinner my husband remarked that it reminded him of the bridge in Sleepy Hollow, which wasn’t very comforting to me.

Despite stepping in a hole the size of a woodchuck while we looked at the famous bridge, we survived the adventure and our children enjoyed roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with grandpa and shooting off fireworks my Mom shook her head at the cost of. Incidentally, if a man tells you to watch your step, realize men often skip details, details like “watch your step. There is a HOLE THE SIZE OF A WOODCHUCK IN FRONT OF YOU.”

Also, if you’re going to travel to the Forksville General Store bring your appetite and a camera but leave any devices that require WiFi at home.

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The state of dairy farming in Northeast Pennsylvania: tangible struggles, palpable heartache and immeasurable joy

DSC_1669Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

This post is part of a continuing project about the changes in farming in America. The project is both a photo series and a blog series. For more about this series please visit my page about the project, or see the other posts, Tell Me More About: Mark Bradly, Dairy Farmer and The Farm.


Even though he was using a smile to greet his visitors when he came out from the back of the barn his face showed the stress of the morning.

“Is it broken again?” his sister Melissa asked and he nodded, and shrugged.

It wasn’t anything new. Equipment had been breaking down at the Walrath family’s dairy farm for months. Scott, owner and main operator of the farm can’t seem to keep up. He is the farms mechanic, vet, accountant, milks the cows, cleans the barn and plows and plants the fields.

Scott’s shoulders dipped slightly, revealing much more than physical exhaustion.

Days off don’t exist when you’re running a family farm and most people would have given up years ago based on the pay alone.

Melissa and Scott Walrath are no strangers to the challenges farming brings. They grew up on the farm, with their father David, now retired, and their mother Gail, who passed away a few years ago.

The main farm, called Snowcrest Farm, started as one barn and several silos and has now been extended to include David’s property, Melissa and her husband Wayne’s  property, and Scott and his wife Lydia’s property, located in succession about a mile apart from each other on Ballentine Road in East Smithfield.  All together, the three farms, all under the umbrella name of Scowcrest, includes 542 acres and 265 head of cattle on the three properties. Out of the 265 cows, 120 are milking cows and are milked twice a day.

DSC_9036DSC_9040Scott and Melissa have been fighting to keep the family tradition alive their entire lives and they aren’t ready to give up, even though many others would have. The farm was started in 1951 with Scott and Melissa’s grandfather Albert Walrath, who was a full-time school teacher and part time farmer. David took the farm over after graduating from SRU and the farm became Snowcrest Farm in 1973 when he married Gail.

The piece of equipment that broke this day is used to feed the cows their silage of corn and hay. The feeder has been breaking down a lot lately, Melissa says. In fact, a lot of equipment has.

The siblings looked at each other thoughtfully for a few moments, both too worn to even suggest a remedy. Finally Melissa asked if Scott has called someone who has helped in the past. He said he did and the man  would stop by the farm at some point that day. In most cases it’s Scott who fixes the farm equipment, but sometimes extra help is needed.

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Farmer Scott Walrath works on farm equipment at Snowcrest Family Farms, which his family has owned and operated since 1951.

“We are stupid – Stupidly in love with farming,” Scott says with a tired grin when asked why he continues to work the farm even as the challenges grow each day. “Pride, passion, stubbornness and stupidity all play a part of why I am still farming. I have pride in my craft and ability to still make this life work even with everything working against me. I have passion for my animals and my crops.”

“Getting a heifer calf, a litter of pigs, watching my corn come up, or even at 11 at night after being up for 20 hours and stacking the last round bale in the shed before rain comes,” he continues. “The smile on my face should say it all. I have stubbornness to make this life style work for my family as well as my community. I want my family to be able to grow up on this farm and I want my community to be able to drive by and see my farm prosper. Nothing makes me sadder than to see fields that used to be in production and growing wonderful crops turn into weeds because there is no one left to tend to them.”

Scott knows other farmers are giving up, selling, and in worst cases, ending their lives from all the pressure.

“I don’t know what else I’d want to do. There is nothing else I’d want to do,” he says.
“I want to be able to provide for my family doing this but right now I’ve got Kelsey (a young girl from the local Future Farmers of America) I’ve got two other high school boys who will be here later. I don’t have any full time help. It’s me and Melissa is working herself to the bone helping out right now.”

Ten years ago the Walraths had two full time helpers, both parents and Scott.

“That was a lot of help and it still seemed like a lot of work,” Scott says.

Now Scott does the job of four people and recently when a back injury flared up the tasks on the farm fell to the rest of the family. Melissa and Wayne also work full time as elementary teachers in the Troy Area School District.

In addition to the cows, Scott houses pigs, a horse, goats, chickens and a turkey in his recently rebuilt barn at the top of the hill. The barn located at the house, where he lives with his three children and Lydia burned two years ago and took 100 animals with it. All six of the breeding pigs, all of which had just had piglets, and the family dog also died.

Although we got insurance money it was not enough for the rebuilding, so we had to take out a loan“, Melissa says. “When we tried rebuilding the first time the barn collapsed and we had to start all over for the second time. Luckily it was summer by then and cattle could be in the pasture because we were running out of room without the barn.  I think rebuilding was more of a new beginning. Scott designed the barn just the way he wanted it.”

The new barn became a more friendly place for a more modern farm. It’s available for tours by local 4-H groups or local schools and it’s also a great location for meetings and the small office even provides a place for Scott to crash when his pigs are in labor and he needs to keep an eye on mom.

Scott appreciates those who encourage people to go out and buy a gallon of milk or a block of cheese to support the dairy farmer but in the long run that won’t help much, he feels. The people who are actually benefiting from the sale of dairy are the middle men or larger corporations. The profit isn’t trickling down to the farmer.

“The biggest challenges in farming today are the big farms pushing out the little farms,” he says. “I call it the Walmart effect. There used to be a lot of little mom and pop stores especially here in the Valley. Now you go to Walmart. Same in farming. There are more 1,000-40,000 cow farms and they can make more milk, cheaper that we can at 100 cows or less.”

Dairy farming is not regulated in the United States and that lack of regulation means the people doing the hardest work are getting the least benefit, Scott feels.

DSC_9020“We are at the bottom of the food chain so we don’t get it. It’s always the middle man,” he said. “So if you want to go out and buy a gallon of milk I’m sure they appreciate it but it’s not helping me.”

Nothing is helping at this point, he said.

“As far as I am concerned, the dairy industry is not regulated – like, for example, Bill Gates goes out with Microsoft, they let him get so big but they don’t let him corner the market you know..he’s got to sell off or whatever,” Scott said. “The Dairy Farmers of America controls 80 percent of the farms and a couple other small farms are co-ops but Maryland and Virginia right now they are losing money because they’ve got too much milk. They’re trying to sell it at lower costs but then they don’t have operating capital. I was forced last October to sign with DFA or [I] don’t have a market. I didn’t have a choice.  So they say ‘you want to sell all your cows and your livelihood or do you want to join with the DFA?'”

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Scott gets some help on the farm from members of the Athens Area Future Farmers of America and his nephew, Simon. 

DSC_8980Scott credits the Athens Area High School Future Farmers of America with helping to not only keep area farms in the area running but keeping young people interested and up to date on the changing face of farming. In addition to learning about farming, these students are also learning a work ethic that has already shown to benefit them in future jobs. When a potential employer looks at a resume and reads that a young person has worked on a farm, they know they are a hard worker, Scott said.

“Every one of the kids that have used me as a reference has been hired at the post high school job choice,” he said.

“Pride, passion, stubbornness and stupidity all play a part of why I am still farming. I have pride in my craft and ability to still make this life work even with everything working against me. I have passion for my animals and my crops.”
– Scott Walrath, farmer, East Smithfield, Pa.

Scott doesn’t want to give up on farming. He wants his children to grow up the same way he did – getting much of their food from their backyard, climbing tress and milking cows and splashing through the mud and catching fireflies in the summer.

“I want to raise my kids here ,” he said, as he turns his tractor into an empty field to spread manure and prepare the soil for planing later in the season. “The joys of raising a family on the farm is the closeness we have. The kids can ride in the tractor with me, go to the barn with me and when there is hay or other work to be done there is nothing like all of us pitching in and getting the job done, even if it’s until the middle of the night.”

His children, like many children who grow up on a farm, will always know the value of a dollar and what hard work really is, he said.

DSC_8965-2“They get to experience so many of God’s wonders from the birth of the animals, to animal husbandry, to building things, to growing our own food,” Scott said. “My kids never say that they are bored and don’t need video games to keep them entertained. One of the biggest things I  teach them is common sense, which is very lacking in society today.”

Scott knows continuing to farm doesn’t look like the wisest choice to some.

“Stupidity also plays a role – a big role,” he says about his determination to continue the farm. “My body is breaking down early, I rarely get time off, and my stress level is at an all time high. I am sure a 40 hour a week job would be better for my sanity and my health, but I am not made that way. I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if I didn’t have something to pour my mind, body and soul into.”

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In case you missed it. January 28 to Feb. 4 update

I rambled about various things this past week – from faith to photography to early pregnancy loss to the 13 years I worked in small town newspapers. Something for everyone? Well, almost. I didn’t ramble about cooking, guns, or politics, so not quite something for everyone. 

So in case you missed it, here is a link to the posts from this past week:

HOTHEADS, HOMICIDAL LUNATICS, FORGOTTEN SOULS AND GUN TOTING REDNECKS: OR THE 13 YEARS I WORKED AS A SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER REPORTER PART I

A LOSS IS A LOSS NO MATTER HOW “SMALL”

PEACE