More Than A Fire

The chill outside was so brittle cold that your lungs hurt if you breathed in too deeply. Inside, I watched as he carefully selected two small pieces of wood that had been split apart. 
Settling them inside the wood stove, he took a few shreds of paper and wood kindling crisscrossing them over the two pieces.
Satisfied that it was ready, he struck a match and ignited the paper. The damper was open, drawing the smoke upwards. I watched, fascinated as the kindling caught fire, and soon the two small pieces were burning.
He continued to feed the fire, telling me that this was when most wood stove fires could burn up without heating the room. He gradually added two larger pieces of firewood, explaining that it was vital to always have two pieces touching one another.
Looking at me, he asked me to observe how he’d placed the wood. Not smothered together so that they’d smolder and be snuffed out—but crossing over, so that the fire from one would encourage the other to burn. 
Soon the stove warme…

Thank a Vet

If ever there was a country bumpkin, it was Reuben. You’d seldom see him without his coveralls and cowboy hat. He and my dad were best buddies in high school—countless stories of youthful antics were attributed to these two. 
It was said that Reuben could laugh louder than his dad’s pig herds. Upon graduating in 1949, Dad took advantage of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program to help pay his college costs, and Reuben joined his dad full time at his pig farm.

Raising pigs was hard work, but for Reuben’s immigrant family it’s all they knew. When 75,000 soldiers from the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea poured over the 38th parallel, the Cold War became real. 
In Reuben’s family, supporting their new homeland meant sacrifice—Reuben immediately enlisted. He was in the first wave of American troops sent to support South Korea.
When Dad came home for the summer, he learned that his best friend had left for war. News from the war-torn Korean Peninsula was scarce. While D…

Neighborly Barking

Barking dogs. Sigh. My husband has called our neighbors and complained. He texts them reminders when the dogs keep barking. 
I’ve written a complaint letter to them, but never sent it. My tendency is to grouse around my wooded retreat, and occasionally shout at the two small barking dogs. To no avail. They still bark.
Oh, the neighbors are nice enough to try and get them to stop. Briefly. The only time they aren’t barking is when they are inside. 
In fact, as I write this, I can see the little furry face insistently barking at me through the wire fence. She’s just far enough from her house, her owners probably can’t hear her, but it’s all I hear.
I’ve even tried walking along my side of the fence line—ostensibly to get the dogs closer to their home—so my neighbors WILL hear them. Sometimes that works, more often I just get more frustrated.
So today, mid-afternoon, after another round of incessant barking, I walked along the fence towards my neighbor’s home—with two little non-stop barkin…

Work Hard Love Well

When I met Bernadean, she’d already had multiple back surgeries to repair damage from former surgeries that all began when she’d fallen off a ladder twenty years prior. 

To see her energy and work ethic, you’d never guess the pain she’d faced. 

Just after I married her son, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

But with her trademark work ethic, she merely adjusted the gauges of her life to manage mobility while owning and operating two thriving Bible bookstores.

Where did this inner drive come from? Where did she learn how to work so hard?
In a word: hoeing. Bernadean wielded a hoe across acres of vegetables like a surgeon uses a scalpel during surgery. 

She and her siblings were migrant farm workers—following the crops—moving from state to state as needed. 
Yet, as a child, she thrived in school. With 11 siblings, money was tight. She re-purposed her hand-me-down dresses with a flair that came from sewing skills honed by necessity.

She knew complaining about the hard work wouldn’t p…

The Face of Addiction

It all began in college. At a time when I should have felt the freedom to enjoy adulthood, I looked critically at the outside of who I was and hated me. 
Living alone, with no one monitoring me, I could choose how to eat. Or in my case, not to eat. 
In an attempt to re-shape myself into what I thought would be a perfect size, I kept up my insane starvation diet.

As I got skinnier and frail, I’d nearly faint from standing too quickly or exerting too much. I know my family was terribly worried—but this was way before eating disorders were fully recognized as a mental illness.
I was hospitalized once. My doctor tried to understand my reason for not eating—jotting notes in my chart. Shaking his head, he told me that he wouldn’t make a record of what I said—if anyone looked at my files, there was no need to have this affect my future.  
Then the hospital dietician came in. She was grumpy and no nonsense. “Want a burger? Fries? How about a chocolate shake?” She left me without a backward glance …

You Booze You Lose

I was 17 and wondering how I’d managed to ruin my reputation with the teachers in my school. I thought I had my act together—good grades, ambitious, involved in school and community. 
But I found out how quickly and definitively that could change. One stupid decision to get drunk on an overnight school field trip was all it took. Now, a whole year later,  as I sat in my US History teacher’s classroom, asking advice, he said, “You booze, you lose.” 
Abraham Lincoln said it more eloquently, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and five minutes to lose it.”
All I could do was move forward. And I did.

I became aware of alcohol as a child—observing my parents drinking wine with dinner. As a young teen, it progressed from wine to cocktails before and after dinner. 
Alcohol didn’t seem to be a problem. It was just part of our lives. My parents worked hard and provided well for the family. I felt loved and cared for. 
When I reached the drinking age at 21, my doctor handed me a check list fo…

Esports Frontier

I read about Sarah-Charles “Charlie” Morrow in our local paper. She’d just been hired as the first esports coach for Peninsula College. 
I needed to meet her—and find out more about this whole brave new world of esports and video games. We met over coffee and I told her about my grandson and how much he enjoyed gaming. He's focused on improving, and shares this time with his close friends—all online.
Charlie told me players develop fast decision making skills—mentally calculating up to 100 actions per minute. My grandson enjoyed Fortnight. Now he has another favorite. He’d like to compete in tournaments. 
Esports is a lucrative and competitive world. Just this last summer, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won the Fortnight World Cup. It earned him $3 million dollars. 
Fortnight is one of the most popular games ever. There are 250 million players and it has amassed billions in revenue through in-game purchases. 
Charlie understands why parents worry about video games—their content and the tim…