Monthly Archives: February 2015

Stuck in the Middle with You

Clowns and jokers–OH MY! Between measles outbreaks, the Super Bowl, and yoga pants, there’s been a lot of fodder to feed the wackos the past few weeks. There are some seriously cray-cray websites out there.

One site cast Katy Perry as a figure straight from Revelation. This site has some other predictions that could only have been pulled from a cracked pot. Personally, I thought this was one of the better half-time shows although there was one song I hoped wouldn’t be included. I understand those who thought the performance wasn’t appropriate, but that would have been the time to turn off the TV, or if they were at a party to get a snack and distract the children. On a side note, I was pleased the commercials were more family friendly than most years. They’re harder to avoid. The thing is reading through this particular site, I could tell this group would have been scandalized by a family act from Branson. You know what Taylor Swift says about haters.

Then there was the measles outbreak. This is the only issue where I actually took a side on social media. I’m strongly pro-vaccine but also pro-parental choice. That post was fun to watch, and in the end I think sanity prevailed, but not before I was “enlightened” by some comments linking to websites that rivaled snake oil medicines in scientific research.

I didn’t even “go there” when it came to the yoga pants kerfluffle. I mean yoga pants for crying out loud. I’m not a male, but I can’t imagine yoga pants being sexy. Yes they’re tight and probably should only be worn to and from the gym (or in lieu of pajamas for last-minute grocery trips, see below). Men stumble by lusting over women’s figures. Trading yoga pants for khakis or a skirt won’t solve that problem. Maybe all attractive women should wear choir robes. Personally, I think that’s what the uber-modesty crowd wants. And I often wonder if the real motive behind this stance is envy for women who are in shape.

However, I’d rather see a woman in yoga pants than anyone over eight in pajamas. That’s my rant. Unless it’s ten p.m. in a fastfood restaurant, and you’re a teenager/college student traveling in a large group (sports team, church group, leadership training), you have no business showing up in public in pajamas. I’ve seen young women, dads, old ladies in their jammies in everywhere from the grocery store to restaurants. Get dressed people.

Last week, I almost broke my “no pajamas in public” rule. I’d worked a really long day, it was after ten, and I was sure that I’d left my phone and wallet on the counter when I got dinner. Thank goodness the world (or at least a Tempe Taco Bell) were spared the horror of seeing me in plaid flannel pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt.

You can tell it’s cold, snowy and miserable. People are bored and frozen with nothing better to do than blog.

My Funny Valentine

Laguna the Leopard

Laguna the Leopard

I’m not a romantic, and the trappings of Valentine’s Day are not a big deal to me. I’m in it for the long haul. A box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or a fancy dinner are not something I expect on February 14. First, I’m picky. If you want to attribute one quote to me it’s, “When it comes to friends and chocolate, I prefer quality over quantity.” So that red heart box at Walgreen’s. Yeah. No thanks. However, the half-priced York peppermint patty hearts we snagged after church. Score!

As for flowers, I’m not a huge fan. There are a couple of exceptions. My husband used to randomly bring home a mixed bouquet from this flower shop on the way home from work. I loved the spontaneity and that he hand-selected the flowers. Of course, anything my kids pick out of the yard is worthy of my table.

And the special Valentine’s Day dinners, we’ve only done that once and the kids tagged along. Before kids, we got entertainment books and picked a place that would take coupons (often not good on February 14), so we’d go out on a different night and call it good. For the past few years, we’ve lived in a small town where I telework. I’m OSHA HAZWOPER certified and since we’ve moved, the annual training has been the week of Valentine’s Day, so often it’s one of the few nights of the year we’re apart from each other.

A couple of years ago, we went out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, and the kids came with us. It was a lot of fun but more because we rarely go out for steak dinners. Last year was just as special. We have a favorite local restaurant that’s similar to Chipotle only much better and we’ve gotten to know the owners. I was late driving home and didn’t feel like fixing dinner. My hero stopped by, and the owners hooked me up with their last order of chipotle cream shrimp. For less than $10, my husband gave me a romantic dinner of a different type.

Typically we exchange a small gift. In the past, it’s been Aveda tea for him and Nespresso pods for me. This year, I had an inexpensive request. A stuffed animal I’d seen at a local store. That’s how Laguna the leopard joined our family.

What is your idea of a romantic gift?


This blog post is shameless self-promotion at its best. My short story, “Detention” was released in the Out of the Storm anthology. The book is a collection of stories that placed in the ACFW Writers on the Storm contest and is published by HopeSprings Books with all proceeds going to the ACFW Scholarship fund. You may have noticed my tagline is “A Different Kind of GEKE: From steam punk elves to the dystopia of high school. “Detention” is a take on the Cinderella story that features steam punk Elves, and the heroine’s school is rather dystopian. If you’re a fan of steam punk and/or fairy tale retellings, you’ll love “Detention”. You’re not? There are eleven other stories in this collection. That’s what is cool about this anthology, there is something for everyone. Never read Amish, western, romance, or speculative fiction. Pick up this book and read stories in genres you’d never try otherwise.

I read the entire collection. I liked some better than others, but all were solid and well-written. Here’s the list of stories in the order they appear with my brief description.

Contemporary category:

1st place: “Squall Line” by Jim Hamlett (Contemporary) – The story of a flight instructor and his student.
2nd place: “Dorothy’s Carol” by Terrie Todd (Women’s Fiction) – Two very different women are thrown together by circumstance.
3rd place: “A Rumspringa Storm” by Steve Hooley (Amish) – An Amish woman learns God’s purpose for her life.
4th place: “Tempest Tossed” by Annette O’Hare (Women’s Fiction) – A young woman makes peace with her family obligation.

Speculative category (Fantasy / SciFi):

1st place: “The Grumpy Chronicles” by Susan Lyttek (Fantasy) – Like “Detention” this story involves Elves, wicked stepmothers, and a famous fairy tale princess. Except this time it’s about seven Elves mistaken for Dwarves; and one is not happy about this mix up.
2nd place: “The Great Storm” by Karla Rose (SciFi)  – A young girl and her family seek shelter from a storm of invading enemies.
3rd place: “Oddman” by Carla Hoch (SciFi) – A man of mixed race is not fully accepted in his community, but may be the only one who can save it.
4th place: “Aperture” by Linda Kozar (SciFi) – A mysterious girl and her teddy bear show up looking for the previous owners of the home.

Other Genres category:

1st place: “Just West of Clovis” by Ralph D. James (Western) – A witty story about a man who finds a foot in a boot connected to a man who is very much alive.
2nd place: “Husband Hunting” by Crystal L. Barnes (Western) – A man steals a woman’s wedding dress and tries to make off with her heart too.
3rd place: “Detention” by Gretchen Engel (YA / Fantasy) – When her visa is denied, a young woman seeks another way home.
4th place: “Fire in a Storm” by Angela K. Couch (Historical) – Set in 1930s USSR, a man is conflicted between doing his duty and what is right.

I hope or more of these stories appeals to you. If it does, then pick up this book and read them all. You won’t be disappointed, and you’re helping support a great cause.

What genres do you like? Which genres are ones you don’t normally read? Which story appeals to you most?

OutOfTheStormFB (1)


Lady in Red

It’s February and I’m going to take a break from my usual posts for a public service announcement. If there’s any illness I truly fear, it’s having a stroke at a young age or even in my old age. While I haven’t lost any sleep over it, statistically and genetically speaking, it’s the most likely health concern to happen to me. If you’re a woman, it’s true for you as well. More women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. (Go Red for Women) But if you’re a male the numbers are similar. According to the CDC, in 2013 the leading cause of death (male and female) was heart disease (596.6K) with cancer coming in second with nearly as many deaths (576.7K) but what also needs to be counted is the other 128.9K deaths from strokes.

Friday, February 6, is Wear Red Day. But it’s not just about wearing a red dress any more than wearing a pink or teal or any other colored ribbon will eliminate cancer. For heart disease, it’s a lot about awareness and making lifestyle changes. Eat right, exercise, and manage stress.

When you see pictures of me running a half marathon or writing about running and exercise realize that I’m not doing this to rock a bikini in July. For one, there’s a muffin top sitting on my six-pack (not to mention stretch marks). But the second reason is that I know what genetics tell me. I’m going to die from a heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, longevity is in my genes but that’s not the only factor. It’s been proven that a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. That is why I eat well (even if I’m splurging on pizza and jalapeno poppers as I write this and kind of watch the Super Bowl), exercise, and manage my stress.

I make a concerted effort to enjoy family time, read a lot, run, write. These things are all fun and relaxing. I don’t let myself overcommit (most of the time). I don’t hold grudges. I avoid drama. Even if I’m like my grandmother and live to be one hundred, life is too short to be stressed out.

You don’t like healthful foods? I bet you do. Find what you like. Try something you used to hate. Fix it in a different but healthful way. It’s amazing what a few herbs can do to vegetable. Oven roasting or grilling caramelize the natural sugars in vegetables. Steamed ones are crisp and bright. Most veggies can be eaten raw.

You don’t like to exercise? I be there’s something you like. And everything is more fun with a friend. Rather than coffee or lunch meet to walk, bike, bowl, or take an exercise class. Start slow and build up your endurance. Do you have little ones? Exercise with them. They need 60 minutes of activity each day. Why not join them?
We’re a month into the new year. Did you make a resolution? This is me cheerleading. “Keep going! You can do it!” Did you fall off the wagon? Guess what? You can start over. Confession time. Mid-January I got the flu and haven’t exercised since. But I’ll be back out there doing situps, pushups, and running.

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