Three Thoughts for Thursday

Gravel Road showcases triple Iowa nice in this week's 3 thoughts.


  1. On our last really rainy day, it started to pour. I was stranded in the grocery store. Until the man in line behind me opened his stadium umbrella and walked with me to my car. How’s that for Iowa nice?
  2. A few hours later, the hostess at Applebee’s stuck her head out the door as my small umbrella failed to protect Mom, her walker, and I on our way to the restaurant entrance. “I’ll bring a bigger umbrella,” she said. By then, we had reached the door, but we appreciated her offer. More Iowa nice.
  3. When I arrived at home that evening, our mail delivery person had sealed our mail and a large package in a large plastic bag and placed it on the stoop beside the kitchen door. Iowa nice. That’s how we roll around here.

What’s nice about where you live? Leave a comment.


Chicken Salad

The surprise ingredient in this chicken salad adds a delicious crunch to this lunchtime favorite.Sharing the kitchen with my daughter and her family has many advantages. One of the greatest advantages is that I am in charge of only half the meals. Another is the opportunity to learn new recipes from the cook who’s in charge of the other half of the meals. Here’s her take on chicken salad. I never would have guessed how much cauliflower can add to this simple dish.

Anne’s Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 large pickle spears, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Saute cauliflower in olive oil until some pieces begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Combine chicken, onion, celery, pickles, and cauliflower in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving with your favorite bread or on a bed of lettuce.


Notebook Neurosis

Writers have their quirks, and Anne Fleck is here to confess hers...and reveal a few of her mother's, too.Today’s post comes from a fellow resident of our dusty gravel road. It’s a pleasure to turn the keyboard over to Anne Fleck who happens to be my daughter. Once you read what she has to say, you may see a family resemblance. And you’ll understand the significance of the yellow legal pad graphic, too.

Notebook Neurosis

I don’t usually think of myself as a neurotic writer. Disorganized, eccentric, prone to edit my work until the second coming of Christ, yes, but neurotic? Definitely not. I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and it was like reading a field guide to a foreign country: informative, but hardly familiar. When I sit down to write, there are not voices to ignore, no thoughts about success or failure or other people’s opinions. Just me, my pen, the page and the call of adventure.

The page is the fly in the ointment. When it comes to the physical paper I write on I am cagier than a zoo. I’m not alone. I seem to remember there being something about it in Bird by Bird. I’m not really that sure, I read it a while ago. In my own life my mother also displays a paper-related psychosis. She will only write her books on a yellow legal pad.

Clearly she’s a sick, sick woman. The very thought of it makes me shudder. That terrible yellow burning its way into my eyeballs, the red line a knife in the consciousness. The subtle horror of the lines–are they grey or blue? Blue–printed on yellow–looking grey? Or green? Let’s not even start on flipping the page up instead of over.

If there were nothing but yellow legal pads in the world I would write my novels on napkins and bed sheets before succumbing to their canary-colored tyranny. The correct thing to write on is a spiral bound, five subject notebook with a blue cardboard cover.

To read the rest of this article visit Anne’s blog,


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Happy trees; green-eyed, man-stealing women; and Gene Wilder retrospectives in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Good news for those who haven’t mastered the art of painting happy trees. The entire Bob Ross PBS series is now available on Netflix.
  2. In my entire life, I have never purchased a Dolly Parton 45, LP, 8 track tape, cassette tape, CD, or iTunes download. And yet, ads about her new Pure & Simple album keep appearing in my Facebook news feed. So I have concluded that part of her marketing team’s strategy is to target every green-eyed Jolene who uses social media.
  3. Was anyone else surprised to learn that the forever young Gene Wilder was 83 when he died last month? We’re keeping his memory alive at our house by scheduling a Young Frankenstein retrospective viewing in the near future.

What’s your favorite Gene Wilder movie? Leave a comment.

Top Ten Reasons to Take a Walk in September

The Man of Steel and I went a little wild and crazy celebrating Labor Day, 2016. Not only did we visit the health food store and then order our favorite drinks at our favorite coffee shop, but we also took an early morning walk the High Trestle Trail. Here are 10 reasons for central Iowans to consider a September walk on the trail. For those of you who live far, far from the most beautiful spot in the world, many of the reasons apply to a walk in the woods anywhere.

10.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Walkers who have horse phobias have no reason to be paranoid on the High Trestle Bridge.

9.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.This is a proper Iowa trail paved with smooth cement, and benches are strategically placed along the way for those who need to rest now and then.

8.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Signs along the way let you know how many of the optimum-for-health daily 10,000 steps you have walked.

7.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Wildflowers along the way will put you in a good mood.

6.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Someone created the coolest bike racks ever along the path, too.

5.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.Fall colors are beginning to peek through with the enticing promise of spectacular autumn foliage.

4.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.If you stay alert, you might see late summer fawns with their mommies.

3.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The sumac, oh, the sumac.

2.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The view of the Des Moines River from the bridge is breathtaking.

1.  Why take a walk during September? Here are 10 good reasons.The High Trestle Bridge is a beautiful work of art.

Where do you like to walk in the fall? Leave a comment.


Three Thoughts for Thursday

The end of summer, a new exhibit at the Louvre, and the Man of Steel's latest adventures in this week's 3 thoughts.


  1. The saddest day of summer is when the public swimming pool gets drained. It’s just so final.
  2. Several passersby on our Gravel Road have mentioned seeing the Man of Steel mow the lawn with a 40 pound pack on his back. Lest a rumor starts that I banished him and all his possessions to the yard, please note that he is training for a mountain climbing adventure. (I’m not making this up.)
  3. One of this summer’s exhibits at the Louvre in Paris is a Barbie doll retrospective. Can you imagine what her presence is doing to Mona Lisa’s smile?

What makes you sad at the end of summer? Leave a comment.


Summer Recipes on Our Gravel Road

In August, most of our meals revolve around what comes in our weekly CSA share and what’s in season at the grocery store. Since many fruits and veggies are available for a very short time, I’ve been cooking family favorite recipes rather than trying new ones. That’s why today’s post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately.

1. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.To use up tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapenos we’ve been making double batches of this delicious summer salsa. This summer’s new twist has been to cut the corn off two ears of sweet corn, microwave it for a minute, and add it to the salsa. How can something good for a person be so sinfully good?

2.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.

Summer heat’s been great for the basil in my herb garden. I’ve lost count of how many batches of pesto we’ve made. We make non-dairy basil pesto, which is as tasty as the regular version.

3.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Most of the pesto goes in the freezer to be used throughout the winter. But some of it gets added to pesto pasta, to which we add summer vegetables that need to be used: zucchini and grape tomatoes are two faves.

4. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Peanut chicken stir fry is another summer favorite at our house because we can add whatever veggies are available. Our favorite is Joni’s Cashew Chicken, garnished with peanuts instead of cashews. You can find other stir fry recipes by typing “chicken stir fry” in the Gravel Road search box.

5. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.With peach season going strong, we’ve been eating a lot of peach pie for dessert. This morning I made two for supper with friends tonight. This fresh peach pie recipe can’t be beat.

So what’s cooking in your late summer kitchen? Leave a link to your favorite recipe in the comment box if you like.

Top Ten Reasons There’s No Place Like Home

Ten reasons weary travelers look forward to coming home.My spring and summer gallivanting ended a month ago, and so far, staying put is all I want to do. Here are ten reasons there’s no place like home.

10. The people at here speak my language. Not just English. But midwestern English. As in talk about sweet corn, State Fair, heat, humidity, sleeping weather, and knowing how many miles you’ve driven by the number of gravel roads passed.

9.  When something is misplaced, I know it’s somewhere in the house rather than in another state, another country, or snuggled up next to the dirty underwear in my suitcase.

8.  It’s easier to stay organized at home than on the road because…

7. …everything is in its proper place. Except when #9 occurs, which is far too often.

6.  Iowa in August and September is so beautiful, I can hardly stand the thought of being gone for even a minute of it.

5.  Sunday worship with believers in other parts of the world is a blessing, but Sunday worship with our local church family is a blessing and a comfort.

4.  Cooking in our kitchen means being able to eat everything on the table, including dessert, without asking if it’s dairy-free.

3.  At home, when #7 rather than #9 is in effect, there’s time to think deeply and do what I like to do best–get lost in writing.

2.  Home is where I can Facetime often with two of my grandkids, play with the other one whenever we want, and share the day with our daughter and son-in-law.

1.  For 39 years, whenever I’ve had to travel without the Man of Steel, he’s the one who makes the house feel like home when I return.

What makes you say, “There’s no place like home?” Leave a comment.


When the World Does a Number on Your Faith

What does getting bad news at the dentist office have in common with bad news on the national and world stage? More than you might think! After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10–11

At her last visit to the dentist my 87-year-old mother learned that the aging process is doing a number on her teeth. After her hygienist suggested a deep cleaning was in order, Mom’s response was less than enthusiastic. “It was a terrible appointment,” Mom said when we met in the waiting room. “I could have gone my whole life without news like that.”

I made suitable, empathetic noises while we scheduled the extra cleaning. I practiced active listening techniques during lunch and tried to cheer her up. “Look at the bright side, Mom. You’re almost 88. You have all your teeth. You have dental insurance that makes the procedure affordable.”

She was inconsolable. “I just wasn’t expecting this kind of news,” she said. “It’s awful.”
“Mom,” I said as my supportive, loving daughter veneer peeled away, “you’re acting as if you’ve got cancer instead of early stage periodontal disease. Try to put this in perspective.” But she couldn’t. At least not until her son visited her and managed to coax her out of her funk by mentioning that he’d had the same procedure done a few years back.

Reflecting on Mom’s situation, I see some similarities between how she responded and how many followers of Christ respond when national and international current events do a number on our faith. First, our reaction focuses on what’s wrong and views past and present blessings as our right. We rarely express gratitude for God’s blessings while we have them, but complain loudly when they cease. Can you think of an election year when Christians expressed gratitude for two qualified presidential candidates with the fervor that this year’s lack of the same is continually bemoaned?

Second, Christians often respond to current events from a purely temporal and earthly perspective. Instead of standing firm on the rock of God’s sovereignty over human history, we grow despondent and fearful when events unfold differently than expected. When the candidate we support isn’t elected, when our cultural shifts away from a Christian worldview, or when terrorism and gun violence rear their ugly heads, we act as though the world is ending–we who claim to stand on the promise of eternal life with Christ when this world ends.

Christians have little to offer the lost when we respond to earthly events with ingratitude, hopelessness, and fear. But how can we avoid those faithless responses in an increasingly dark and painful world? A clue to that question’s answer can be found in Mom’s recovery from her funk. It ended when a visit with her son changed her perspective.

Similarly our perspective and our future responses change when we spend time with God’s Son in His Word. When we consider how Christ’s absolute confidence in God’s sovereignty and an eternal perspective influenced His responses to ungodly rulers in a non-Christian culture where He suffered violence beyond imagining. When we cling to the promise of Jesus to never leave or forsake us. When we gaze upon the risen Christ and anticipate His future resurrection. When our feet are firmly planted on those realities, we can trust Jesus and respond with hope and confidence. Because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what He promises is absolutely certain. God’s eternal and unchanging best is yet to come.