Author Blog

Poetry Month: My Favorites!

April is the National Month of Poetry. Most people have a favorite poem—lines of verse that struck a chord in their heart perhaps due to a trial or triumph in their life that reflect the poem’s story. A person’s particular favorite may stir feelings of nostalgia, romance, victories, or religion. Some of us have even dabbled a bit in composing our own rhymes.

I thought it would be fun to share two of my favorite poems and explain why I find myself coming back to them. I’ve put the poems below for your enjoyment.

The first of my favorite poems is The Children’s Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is a story of a father who sits in his study at twilight. He hears, edging closer, the sound of little feet and stifled whispers before he is suddenly ambushed by his three daughters. They devour their father with kisses and cuddles. While it may seem he is defeated, he declares himself the victor. He will never let them go. He will keep them he says, “down into the dungeon, in the round-tower of my heart. And there will I keep you forever, Yes, forever and a day…” This is a particular favorite of mine because it reminds me of my father—my dear “old mustache”. Some of my fondest memories are of me and my siblings starting a full scale attack that resulted in squealing peels of laughter as we sought desperately to escape his tickling reach. Oh, to rewind the clock and join again in that fun.

Another of my favorite poems is a short metaphysical poem called The Pulley by George Herbert. The poem describes the blessings God poured into man at our creation—blessings such as strength, beauty, and wisdom. At the bottom of this glass of blessings lies rest. God stays His hand, withholding this coveted gift however, He will allow man to keep the other gifts “but keep them with repining restlessness; Let him be rich and weary, that at least, if goodness lead him not, yet weariness may toss him to my breast.” I think Herbert captures the human condition succinctly in his short poem. Too often we are distracted by the things of this world or too delighted by ourselves to remember our Divine Creator. God, in His infinite wisdom, withheld perfect rest in order that we might, weary with the world, turn ourselves to Him and seek His heavenly repose.

I would love to hear what your favorite poem is! Sharing a great poem is truly like giving someone a beautiful gift.

The Children’s Hour
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

The Pulley
When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”

Author Blog

Spring is in the Air!

Before the 14th century, the season we know as “spring” was called Lent. The word “Lent” refers to the solemn Catholic observance during the forty days leading up to Christ’s death. This time of penance and fasting was meant as a preparation for Christ’s suffering and death leading to the renewal of life brought by His resurrection. The term “Lent” for the spring season is rather fitting then when you consider nature’s transformation from death and dormancy to the burgeoning life enjoyed by late spring and early summer.

Spring is my favorite season despite the allergies—which are awful! (PSA – try a teaspoon of local honey to help create a natural defense against allergy symptoms.) The vibrant colors and fledgling life visible everywhere fills me with renewed hope after the dark, cold days of winter. I love when sunlight remains after we have eaten dinner allowing for a family walk or throwing a ball outside before bedtime routines commence. I am a fan of the Sunshine Protection Act. The fact that we will enjoy sun later in the day forevermore makes me supremely happy.

We have been working to prepare for the spring growing season at our house. My rose bushes are prepped and ready for their season of glory. The hydrangea bushes are budding new life. My husband and father-in-law just planted fourteen oak and maple trees along the road leading to our house. I plan to plant three azalea bushes to replace some that didn’t make it—no thanks to the exterior painters who trampled them last year. My six-year-old daughter started giant sunflowers in a pot inside before successfully replanting them outside.

We also try to enjoy the outdoors more. Fishing on the pond has been a recent activity we have all enjoyed. One of my all time favorite things about spring are the flowers my children bring me.

As an update to my last blog, the chicks are doing well. Sadly, we did lose some even though we fought hard to nurse them. We replaced them with new chicks. Take a look at how tiny the new ones are compared to the originals! For those interested, the originals are Leghorns. Two of the newbies are bantams and the two others are ISA browns. The bantams were “straight run” which means unsexed. We’ll see if we accidently chose roosters…

Tell me what your Spring traditions are in the comments below. If you have any allergy relief tactics, leave a comment below.

Author Blog

Life and Death on a Farm

“How do you do it?” people ask. “Deal with the death you encounter on a farm?”

Before I answer that question, let me state that the death of farm animals isn’t easy for me. Watching my children grieve the loss of a farm animal is even harder. It would be callous to just tell them with a shrug, “That’s the circle of life, kid. Now, go get a shovel.” We do take the opportunity to talk about how nature works—some animals don’t make it; they get sick or injured or die of old age. We haven’t had more than the normal amount of death on our farm over the years. (Well, minus the time a fox got into the duck tractor, which was tragic.) But death is inevitable on a farm.

We just had chicks arrive in the mail yesterday. We celebrated that all of them made it through shipping before helping them nestle into the safe, warm, and clean living space we had for them. Sadly, this morning we woke to find that one of them had not made it through the night despite it being a calm evening and warm under their heat lamp. My son was distraught. It had been the one he selected to take care of out of the bunch. The highs and lows of farm life can seem extreme at times. After yesterday’s celebrating, here we were needing to bury yet another farm animal. I gave him a tight hug and my children took care to bury him near our beloved rooster’s grave.

Then a new blow. Another of the chicks likely has an intestinal infection or parasite. We immediately put it in quarantine to keep the other chicks safe. With the help of my children, I’ve been nursing the sick chick all day. Every hour or so, I use a medicine dropper to give her water and try to help her eat yogurt and starter food slush. She has revived several times but we fear the worst. As it goes, this one was the chick my youngest had latched on to.

This evening, my son ran in to tell me that another chick was face down in the wood chips. That’s right, folks! We have a second invalid to nurse. So—we’ll see and we’ll hope.

What I like to remember most are the farm animals we’ve cared for and even helped bring into the world. We have had baby goats kidded right here on our farm. We have had chickens secret eggs away until they have hatched while we watched in amazement as mama hen took care of them. We have brought many chicks to adulthood who now roam our fields (and mess up my garden). We saved two sets of Muscovy ducks at different times. The farm dog, Josie came as a puppy and is now helping to “train” the new puppy Lilly. So much life!

How do I deal with the death of farm animals? Well, first we try to avoid it. When it happens, we deal with it with compassion, with awe for God’s creation. That’s all we can do and that’s what I hope to instill in my children as they too experience the ups and downs of farm life—and death.

Author Blog

Writer’s Desk – Why mine doesn’t always exist.

photo credit: @our.sweet.retreat

If you have a hobby of any kind, it is common to have a “space” for your craft. If you love wood working or giving new life to antique furniture through DYI refurbishment, you probably find yourself in the garage or outdoors. If you are a painter, you likely have a place for your paints, brushes, canvas, etc. For writers, it has become a trend to take a photo of our desk and post that on social media. I LOVE looking at these photos. The creative spaces are gorgeous eye candy! I don’t have such a space.

I’ve dreamed of having that – The writer’s desk. I’ve gotten things pretty well laid out a time or two (proof below):

If I could have my ideal space, I’d have a fairly simple desk in front of a window overlooking a pretty corner of nature. This way I could glance up every now and then from my writing and refocus myself. On my desk, mementoes would sit, tastefully displayed, that remind me of a loved one or perhaps spark my creative genius. The delicious aroma of coffee would permeate the air from the attractive mug sojourning nearby. While I would keep an elegant notebook at hand and a small army of freshly sharpened pencils, the majority of my writing would be done on a laptop.

In reality, however, I write where I can. I’m a mom, I work at a school full time, and … I’m tired. These days, my writing regimen tends to include: couch, pajamas, and my favorite beverage of the moment.

To my surprise, the first few pages of an old sewing machine instruction booklet started, not with how to operate the machine, but instead instructed the user that her appearance and house be immaculate before she even starts sewing. Can you imagine? Before you thread that needle, ladies, don’t forget your heels!

To a certain extent, I agree that a clean house or a tidy space helps you feel composed and at peace before launching on a project. There is also something to be said for having your basic duties met before allowing yourself the pleasure of sitting down to your hobby. But, in full honesty, I’d never get to write if it meant I first needed to have a perfect house and immaculate appearance.

I think, in order to be our best selves, we must find moments to fit in our hobbies. This may or may not include the perfect work space. That is something you can set as a future goal, but it isn’t integral to being creative. Maybe your hobby area doesn’t look like curated selections from a Pinterest wall or the Instagram page of that social media influencer you follow. Don’t let that keep you from honing your talents! Studies show that when we make time for our artistic outlets, our mental health improves. When I feel good, I tend to handle life’s challenges with more grace than otherwise. If I get to spend five minutes writing, I grumble less about that laundry basket full of clean clothes I need to fold. You can look at taking time to be creative as an investment in your health – like the sugar which makes the bitter medicine of life’s responsibilities go down easier.

Find your comfort zone, be grateful for the opportunity, and lean in to your hobby.

Author Blog

Traits of Friendship

In the classic novel, Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley defines the ideal friendship for which her young heart has yearned. She desires, “A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.”

Friendship, and I’m talking about true friendship, is rare. Have you ever had someone who you could call day or night and they would pick up, listen to you ugly cry, and before you’ve finished emptying your heart they’ve shown up at your door? That kind of friendship bolsters us up and carries us through this difficult journey on earth making the trials easier and the joys worth sharing. To me, there is another, quieter sign of intimate friendship which communicates an even deeper soul connection.

In my novel Madame Beekeeper, the main character, Rachel Buckner finds herself in her early sixties without true friendships. She kept everyone at arm’s length for so long that one day she wakes up to the stark reality that, though respected by many, she has no one to, as Anne Shirley put it confide her inmost soul. As the story unfolds, Rachel begins letting people into her heart – or is she finally letting herself be welcomed into theirs? It’s hard for her to tell. Rachel learns relationships can mean being vulnerable and that it is just when we are weakest that we find out who our real friends are.

After a horrific accident involving someone dear to Rachel, she finds herself alone with LouEllen, her neighbor and former coworker. The evolution of their friendship culminates on the quiet drive home from the hospital and this moment has become one of my favorites in the book:

Neither Rachel nor LouEllen spoke. Both were too drained from the day’s events. One sign of true friendship is that you do not feel obliged to fill the void of silence with idle chatter. Sometimes friendship can be best felt in the comfortable intermission between words.

I have been blessed with friends who are kindred spirits. Bosom friends who have cried with me and laughed until we cried – laughed so hard we couldn’t even get another word out and we’re barely able to breathe. Better still, these friends, in the moments when life has paused and the rush lapsed into silence, have sat – just sat – with me, both of us comfortable, not feeling the urge to break the silence.

This criterion for a sign of true friendship might seem odd to some. Comfort in silence as a trait of friendship? Take a moment and think about it though. Who can you sit with, unabashedly yourselves, and neither of you feels compelled to say something? You are just happy in each other’s company? To me, that is the ultimate assurance that a friendship has fully blossomed.

What is your defining trait for friendship? I’d love for you to share in the comments.

Author Blog

When Times Are Tough – The Tough Pray

10678473_10152707446330952_7154448925630624208_nI won’t bore you with the gritty details of my life’s downs right now – You’ve had ’em too.  We’ve all been there.  When life seems to be throwing more lemons at you then you have the patience to turn into a pitcher of lemonade, what are you to do?  Well, pray.  But, I’m a type A person (or at least that’s what people have told me on occasion).  I think that means I like to solve my own problems – moving mountains to get to the finish line without stopping to take names.

Most of the time that works for me.  During several, memorable junctures of my life, however, I found myself amidst an ocean of unanswerables, sadly lacking a life-vest, or shark repellent, or sunscreen – one of those times we are knocked to our knees and reminded that the best thing to do in that position is to pray.  It is the refusal of prayer and the stubborn trust in “me” when the other guy wins.

I learned my lesson twelve years ago that prayer is sometimes the only thing that’s left and that I need to trust with abandon when there’s nothing else to cling to.  That’s why, when I don’t see an end to the tunnel, I am again reminded that I can’t solve everything by myself and the best thing to do is pray my Lord reaches His hand out in the storm and pulls me up, for He is truly our Shepherd and will protect us.

~My Shepherd~

Oh my Lord, he draws near again.

My Lord, my God I beseech Thee.

Through pain or prize he seeks to reign,

but Jesus Victor my King shall be.


When I was weak he conquered me.

Forgetting to kneel, proud I stood –

too bold, to blind to bend my knee,

neglecting Your sacrificial wood.


When all seemed lost, I was rescued –

for my poor heart Your grace ransomed,

by Your power my soul renewed,

to purest treasure my will succumbed.


He stands again at my threshold,

beckoning, beguiling Your frail child.

Capture me deep within Your fold.

Whisper my name as his howls grow wild.


Never more will my strength falter,

never again his seeds sow doubt.

I rest firmly at Your altar,

for through the Son lies my only route.

Author Blog

Chocolate – and other true loves

I vividly remember trying cocoa powder for the first time.  I saw the brown container – big, white letters proclaiming “Cocoa Powder”.  I thought I had discovered a secret my mom was keeping from me, a self-confessed chocoholic.  “Chocolate in powdered form?” I wondered excitedly to myself as I plied open the rectangular, plastic top.  I greedily snatched a spoon from the drawer and dug the fine powder out of the container.  ARRRGH!  Cough – cough – GAG!  “WHY?!?!?!?” my soul screamed to the heavens.  “Someone is playing a cruel joke on me.  ‘Cocoa powder’ – A LIE!”

Once I read the fine print – I say ‘fine’ because it should really be stated much larger on the container that the cocoa has not yet been sweetened so no other innocent bystander is tricked, but I digress – As I was saying, once I read the complete label, I realized that no edible chocolate comes that easily.

Isn’t that like everything we love?  As I grew older, I realized (and am still being reminded often) that love requires patience.  A good comparison, for instance, is that Europeans have different ways of expressing things they appreciate, honor, like, and love.  They do not, as Americans do, “love a piece of cake” and “love their mom, too”.  They like cake and love their mom.  Their speech is a reflection that we should honor where honor is due and just appreciate all the other small stuff.

Think of your best friend – Not the person you met the other day that you hit it off with and look forward to seeing again.  No, I’m talking about that friend you cried like a baby to when you were brought low by the grittiness of life, who you showed your crippled shell to when you thought all was lost.  It could be that that friend is your sister or brother, or your mom or dad, or your grade school bestie, but, no matter the case, that deep, secret-sharing friendship took years to foster.

Think of that possession you saved for months for and treasure over the token gift someone gave you.  Or, that assignment for your teacher, professor, or boss that you whittled away at, perfecting time and again before proudly handing it in versus the shoddy work you completed at midnight the night before, pulling references from … well, you can’t remember from where exactly, that you turned in with affected confidence.

Work for something, for anything of importance, is most often a multi-stepped mess that comes together after a long process of careful shaping, carving, crumpling up and starting again before we step back with a knowing smile tugging at our lips.  “It’s finished,” we whisper, “There may be some strings hanging there or a loose nail … my hands hurt and my back aches … my little project has to stand on its own now … I hope it never falls … but it will … and I’ll put the pieces back together … because we’re never done.”

You have to get your hands dirty, your knees will callous, and sometimes you’ll feel like you failed.  Work isn’t for the faint of heart; no one ever said cleaning was clean – But, even when it is hardest, try to love every minute of it.

Love is work.  Not the kind of work we hate … Love is all the work we hate to stop.

Author Blog

The Pain of Loss

My sweet dog is no longer with us 11010528_10155344154590577_4357071565521761111_nbecause of a tragic accident.

Tille (pronounced Till-y) was a dog we rescued from the shelter … I say ‘we’ but actually she was secreted into our possession by my husband while I was thousands of miles away visiting family.  She was a Swedish Vallhund mix, full of unbridled energy, and aptly dubbed Foxy by the rescue center.  Getting to rename her was my consolation prize.  I chose Tille because in Sweden that means heroine and while we rescued her, she’d be our hero, right?  The brave watch dog? Right??

From the start, she and I had … we’ll call them ‘issues’.  Her personality was a bit wild from being on the streets with her brother for (so the rescue center thought) almost a full year.  Whenever the door opened she would bolt through the smallest opening and be gone without a trace.  We’d call and scream hear name looking through the woods beside our house only to see her bounding through the tall brush like a deer.IMG_0516

I’ll admit, she drove me CRAZY at times.

Then something happened.  I saw the wildest dog I’d ever met become a family dog.  For being the   sweetest companion to my children, I thank her.  For guarding our house with determination, I thank her.  IMG_0484For picking up all the crumbs I’m discovering we drop, waiting to go to bed until the last of her masters are tucked in, for her abundance of affection, for her patience when small hands grabbed her fur a little too tight …. Thank you Tille.

Some might not understand how very much it hurts to lose a dog or another pet.  They must not have known the love of a pet.1544342_10154371994380577_1272489255577265553_n

We went on a family walk, she bolted, you can imagine what occurred, and our little Tille didn’t walk home.  She went quick and while doing what she did best: running – and 3 years exactly to the day of us rescuing her.

For all those who have lost a dear pet or a loved one, you know the pain in the immediate moment IMG_0805of loss is terrible but what hurts more is the chasm left to live with.

If you care to, bear with my meager attempt to capture the ache of what’s left after loss:


~Pain IS Nothing~

The loss is all too passing.

It’s the hole that’s left behind –

emptiness holds the real sting,

as lost sight is to the blind.

You were always there beside me,

like a shadow follows close

but now I no longer see

and that’s when I miss you most.

Death is gone, the mourning done,

yet pain still sears my being.

The void rises with each sun,

and sends memories reeling.

Why cannot I forget you?

Why must agony persist?

Because morn will come anew

And you’ll be forever missed.


Author Blog

A Mother’s Prayer

As I put my little girl down for bed tonight, she asked me to stay and cuddle with her.  She doesn’t always ask and I don’t always take the time to offer.  Tonight was special.  I lay beside my first born who is now three years old and watched her profile in the quickly fleeting light.  Her soft brown hair spilled across the pillow tickling my nose as I pretended to sleep.  I peeked at her as she peeked at me.  Silent tears of joy coated my corner of her pillow.  She is growing faster than I could have ever imagined and I don’t want to miss an instant.  As I watched her rub her tired eyes, fighting sleep as she continuously grinned that I was still there, my heart felt full – full to the brim with love.  A prayer I once wrote flooded my thoughts and I wanted to share it with fellow moms.  There are so many lost opportunities in this brief life we live – Lord, help me know when to stop and catch those sweet opportunities to my heart and hold tight.

~A Mother’s Prayer~

By: Emily Henson

I can kiss a finger when it’s hurt

and when they fall brush off the dirt.

I’ll gladly bend to tie a shoe

and mend each and every tear brand new.

But may God grant me the graces

to look into their upturned faces

on frenzied days when I’ve lost control

and take the time to nurture a soul.

The wash my hands will roughen and chap

but I’ll tuck them in every nap.

I’ll clean the floors on which they play

and shoo the dust bunnies far away.

But may God help me do my part

to see to the needs of their heart

even when chores remain undone

for dust can wait till tomorrow’s sun.

That song they love with the silly rhyme

I’ll sing for them a hundredth time.

Nails will be clean with daily bath.

Rules of writing learned along with math.

But God help me to remember

that more in their minds than lessons stir.

While I stay busy with my hands

they may fly off to Neverlands.

While a cleanly house is noteworthy

and tasks await before I’m free,

I’ll blink my eyes and they’ll be grown

but sweet moments I want to have known.

Author Blog

“You can’t” – Very Powerful Words

Stool_MicI recently had the pleasure of speaking with an experienced vocal coach (not for myself mind you – my voice is strictly reserved for my non-judgmental, appreciative children).  The vocal coach said something that struck me then and has continued to haunt me since.  So, as a writer, I found myself wanting to express my thoughts via the written word.  I think a lot of people will be able to relate.

The coach told me that she had personally conducted research through the years of those she has worked with.  There are those people, she explained to me, who say they “can’t sing”.  They state the opinion with complete conviction – as if it was a fact handed to them at birth.

Doctor: Baby ‘A’, I need to let you know that you cannot sing.

Baby ‘A’: Good to know, thanks.

Doctor: No problem.  Whatever the circumstances, just remember that very important fact – You can’t sing.

Baby ‘A’: Got it.

The coach found, however, when she asked that person the question, “Who told you that you couldn’t sing?” the response was always similar.  “A teacher.”  “My mom.”  “My dad.”  There was always someone who had left the impression on the person’s mind that they could not, should not sing.

Wow.  What if someone had told Maria Carey, B.B. King, George Jones, or Bob Dylan they couldn’t sing!?!

Young minds are impressionable.  Words can really scar.

What were you told you couldn’t do?  Did you throw the words back in their face and do it anyway?  Or, like many hopefuls, did you give up X, Y, or Z talent because, well, you “couldn’t do it”?

Some might say, “If you’re meant to do something, you’ll do it despite what people say.  Toughen up.”

And maybe Carey or King or Dylan were told, at some point, that they couldn’t sing and they let the words fall at their feet.  But, the vast majority of people will remember the words and those words will eat away at their confidence.  When I was a classroom teacher, I remembered my past teachers who built me up and those that tore me down.  I vowed to never be the kind of teacher that convinced a child that they could not do whatever they put their mind to.

Put your mind to it.” – That’s a funny expression.  When you put your mind to something, that doesn’t mean you sit on your duff and think you are a great writer, singer, mathematician.  It means you get your hands dirty – You make, mold, practice, struggle into a great talent.

May I never crush a budding talent.  May we all build fellow hopefuls up and never let someone tear us down.