The Goodness of Light for this Fantastic Friday

For this Fantastic Friday, a much needed reminder that light is stronger than darkness even in the dead of winter.This week’s Fantastic Friday post comes in the form of a poem written in January of 2012 when the weather was cold, the morning dark, the moon brilliant and full. The perfect antidote to the winter blues both then and now.

Light Stronger Than Darkness

In winter, the extra hours of darkness
Weigh upon my shoulders,
Press upon my eyelids,
Make me groggy and slow and stupid.

Still last week, when the moon was full,
And the air was winter-warm,
I took my camera into the darkness
As the sun waited patiently to start her day
Until after the moon went to bed.

The darkness was too thick
And my hands too shaky
To capture the glory of the moon,
And finally I quit trying,
Trudging home with shoulders bent,
Eyelids drooping in a darkness
That lingered until yesterday
When I finally looked at the pictures.

Disappointments, all of them but one,
Where the bright moon waited
In the blue-black sky.
Not behind bare black branches
As it was in reality,
But in front of them,
Eclipsing them,
Engulfing them in silver light.

Looking at the picture,
My shoulders straightened,
My eyes opened wide,
When I saw the truth.
Light is stronger than darkness,
Waiting patiently to be found by those who seek it.

Top Ten Differences Between Phoenix and Iowa

What's the difference between Iowa and Arizona? This list's top ten is a good place to start.The Man of Steel and I are home after a week in Phoenix visiting relatives. During this, our first winter vacation to warmer climes, we noticed these ten differences between Arizona and Iowa.

10. In Iowa, you’ll see trees similar to this one being propped up,

treebut you’ll only find these in Arizona.

cactus9.  Iowa hiking paths are strewn with wood chips or gravel. Arizona hiking paths are strewn with boulders poking every which way and then topped with large rocks so the boulders become even more hazardous.

8.  The walkways to airplanes in Iowa sport large thermometers right outside the airplane so passengers know the walkway is a balmy 20 degrees and not below zero like the great outdoors. Passengers in Arizona walkways don’t want to know that walkways in Iowa are a balmy 20 degrees.

7.  In Arizona, people sport flannel scarves for walks in 68 degree weather. In Iowa, people sport flip flops when the temperature is above freezing.

6.  Iowans shiver while drinking morning coffee outside Starbucks. Arizonans shiver inside while sipping their AM java.

5.  Arizonans carry yoga mats over their shoulders on morning walks. Iowans carry snow shovels.

4.  Arizona grocery stores carry delicious avocados and terrible beef. Iowa grocery stores offer the exact opposite.

3.  Arizonans put their dogs in purple and pink strollers for outdoor walks in the winter. Iowans put their dogs in black and gold, red and gold, or purple and gold sweaters.

2.  Arizona has more urgent care pet clinics, pet spas, and upscale pet stores than pediatrician offices. Iowa has more urgent care clinics for little people than pet stores.

1. In Arizona dogs wear sunglasses. In Iowa, eye wear is limited to adults.

What makes your Arizona/Iowa top ten list? Leave a comment.

Top Ten Reasons to Be Thankful for a Snowstorm

snow storm

10. A white, unbroken blanket of snow is so lovely.

9.  Life feels cozy when it’s snowing outside, the dishwasher and washing machine are running, and I’m sitting in a chair writing.

8.  This year’s first big snowstorm didn’t hit until January, which means this winter won’t be as long as it could be.

7.  A snowstorm means evening activities are cancelled, so there’s nothing to do but to download and watch the Downton Abbey Season 5 premiere.

6.  After a month of Camp Dorothy, which just ended Sunday evening, it’s nice to have a guilt-free reason to stay home this Tuesday instead of going to visit Mom.

5.  I can imagine trying to teach children, tired from Christmas break and excited about the snow, instead of teaching them.

4.  This snowstorm affirms our decision to by an all-wheel drive Subaru in November instead of waiting until spring as originally planned.

3.  This snowstorm granted the Man of Steel’s wish to test the Subaru on winter roads…and he was delighted with the way it handled.

2.  Our daughter and son-in-law beat the storm and arrived at their home in Madison, Wisconsin safely.

1.  On a day when our daughter-in-law was in labor, our daughter and her husband raced home ahead of the weather so they could pack and move, the sibs and I were going a little crazy attending to details related to Mom’s upcoming move, and the page proofs for Every Child Welcome arrived, a snowstorm seemed like a fitting metaphor for our family’s life. And when the storm ended, God used it to remind me that our stormy day would pass, too, replaced by beauty. In this case, the beauty of a brand new granddaughter, born just after midnight this morning.

Top Ten December Events to Anticipate

December10. Not paying an arm and a leg to fill the gas tank on the way to visit rellies over the holidays.

9.  Fixing hearty, hot meals that include mashed potatoes and gravy because winter is about food like that.

8.  Catching up with family and friends when their Christmas cards arrive.

7.  Celebrating Eternal Optimist Day on December 21. Because for the next 6 months, the daylight hours keep increasing. Yes!

6.  Stringing Christmas tree all over the house to make it feel like Eternal Optimist Day is arriving early.

5.  Continuing our tradition of watching the Lord of the Ring movies throughout Christmas break.

4.  Enjoying the heated seats in our new car on the chilly drive to Wisconsin this weekend.

3.  Watching our grandson’s eyes light up when he opens the ukulele his Papoo made for him as a Christmas gift…one of the perks of having a papoo who makes guitars!

2.  Going to Des Moines for supper and a movie with my sweetie…in our new car with heated seats.

1.  Singing Silent Night at church during the Christmas Eve service at our church. A holy moment that moves me to tears each year.

Top Ten Things About the End of Daylight Savings Time

daylight savings time breakfast for supper

10. It’s the closest thing to time travel most of us will ever get.

9.  There’s more time to turn the lights down low for a romantic evening and not notice the need to dust the furniture.

8.  When it’s dark by suppertime, jammies are perfectly acceptable dining attire.

7.  Once everyone’s wearing jammies to the table, serving breakfast for supper is also perfectly acceptable.

6.   So is going to bed early after meal clean up. Which is incredibly easy when cereal bowls and spoons are the only things that need washing.

5.  School children who wear jammies to the table, eat breakfast for supper, and wake up early because they went to bed early the night before no longer have to wait for the bus in the dark on school days.

4.  Writers and bloggers who wear jammies to the table, eat breakfast for supper, and wake up early because they went to bed early no longer have to take their morning walk in the dark either.

3.  On evenings when people don’t hit the hay immediately after wearing jammies to the table and eating breakfast for supper, it’s too dark to do anything but binge watch the Modern Family Season 5 DVD, which you have on loan from the library for 1 short week after waiting months for your turn to check it out.

2.  Fall back in the fall means an extra hour of sleep this weekend. Heavenly!

1.  The end of Daylight Savings Time means only 4 short months until March 9 when it and spring make their glorious re-appearance.

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Ten worst winters

  1. Can you imagine how long the mnemonic device will be to replace My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Noodles now that NASA names the 715 new planets it just discovered?
  2. The Man of Steel and his brother were the first Caucasian twins born in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley way back in 1956. Thanks to the Winter of 2014, we can pretend we’re back in the Valley this Saturday when we celebrate the anniversary of that momentous event
  3. Speaking of hard winters, my Minnesota sib sent the above chart about the top ten worst winters, temperature-wise. A day or two later, the winter of 2013-14 moved up a notch thanks to the Polar Vortex’s latest visit. My mom still talks about the Winter of 1935-36 . I still talk about the Winter of 1981-82, the very cold winter when I was pregnant with our first child. Now my kids can join the conversation thanks to the Winter of 2013-14. A new family tradition is born!

What winter stories does your family tell? Leave a comment.

There Are Winter Blues and Then There are WINTER BLUES!

winter light at end of the tunnel

Thanks to the cold, snowy weather this month, residents of the northern two thirds of the US are fighting the winter blues. From the sounds of things, the light at the end of the winter blues tunnel won’t be shining any too soon. So on to Plan B, which is a couple stories from the Harding County History Book erased my winter blues and inscribed a couple mental notes upon my brain for easy access when that blue feeling creeps up again.

Here’s an excerpt about the winter of 1897, the first year the Finnish immigrants Andrew and Alina Peterson lived in northwest Harding County.

         Andrew dug into the hillside and made a one-room accommodation for Alina and the two small children, Blanche and Sulo. The first winter Alina lived there without Andrew as he went back to the Lead gold mine to work. Alina baked bread and traded it for meat with the passing cowboys who had a camp three or four miles away. One remembered story told of a time when a cow wandered away from the herd and suddenily fell through the sod roof and into the middle of the one room home. No one was hurt, though there was quite a mess to clean up as well as roof repairs.*

The second excerpt comes from the Elliot family, about a March snowstorm. The exact year isn’t given, but must have been before 1910 based on other dates mentioned elsewhere in the account.

The snow drifted clear over the door that night. Dad had to dig his way out with the coal shovel to get to the pump. The storm lasted three days and then a thaw came. The creeks were full of slush and another blizzard came, which lasted three more days. We ran out of coal, all but the slack (the tiny particles and dust left after the larger pieces are gone). Dad went to the shed and found some old beef bones, he put them in the big heating stove on top of the slack while it was burning. It didn’t smell too good, but kept us warm. He finally pulled a bobsled into the big kitchen and sawed it up for kindling.**

*Note to self: Stop feeling blue about how the lack of a mud room entrance in our NINE room house (not counting the basement) means mopping the tracked in melted snow and gravel off the kitchen floor. Store the complaining in a safe place and let it rip when a cow falls through the roof.

**Note to self: Instead of feeling blue about how high your heating bill is this winter, inhale deeply and enjoy the lack of burning bone odor in your house. Stand in the kitchen and enjoy the quiet created by the lack of a bobsled being chopped into kindling.

What helps you beat the winter blues? Leave a comment!

Top Ten Items for a Winter Survival Kit

winter survival kit

The winter of 2013–2104 has been a cold one so far. It came early, and from the looks of things, intends to stay late. So Down the Gravel Road is posting this top ten list as a public service announcement for the inhabitants of the frozen tundra. Keep in mind that the list is more metaphorical than practical, the contemplation of which should offer enough food for thought to get you through Ground Hog’s Day when Punxsutawney Phil tells the northern hemisphere how much longer this winter will last.

10.  Car seat warmers. The Man of Steel and the Woman of Aluminum are far to steely (and cheap) to own a car with these. But the Woman of Aluminum is adept at finding out if the cars of acquaintances, with potential to become good friends, have them.

9.   Mouse traps. Those of you who live in old farm houses where the frozen tundra meets the edge of town know why this item made the list.

8.   Happy lights. One way to fight back against the lack of daylight hours in the winter.

7.   Chocolate. This item is self-explanatory.

6.   Hand lotion.

5.   The ability to day dream. Specifically, the ability to day dream about warm places like Florida, Hawaii, and the southwestern United States. To watch an instructional video on how to gain this ability, go to your local movie theater’s showing of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

4.   TV and movie DVDs. Visit your local library’s selection for free or purchase a subscription to Netflix.

3.   Friends and family. Those long winter nights go by faster when you have company over to supper and play games afterward.

2.   A Bible. It promises that our present sufferings can’t compare with future glory. (Romans 8:18). While Paul is referring to future glory in the next life, the new life that bursts forth each spring is a type and shadow of what’s to come. The middle of winter, when all seems dead, is the perfect time to meditate upon the promise of the life to come.

1.   Books, books, books. A good book is good company any time of year. But they are essential in winter. The best book I’ve read so far this winter is The Book Thief. You?

Did I Just Say That?

May snow storms

The man of steel and I are no strangers to May snowstorms. They were more common than we liked during our years out west. One particularly vicious storm dumped 18 inches of snow on Harding County, South Dakota after Mother’s Day. But when we moved to central Iowa in 1985, we thought we’d left nasty May weather far, far behind.

And we had. At least until last week when the winter that will not end graced us with several inches of wet, heavy snow. During the storm that left the landscape looking more like early March than May, the man of steel and I said some things that made us look at one another and ask, “Did I just say that?”

Here are a few of the head-scratching comments heard around here:

  • Hiram, it’s snowing really hard. You might want to leave for work a little early.
  • Where’s the snow shovel?
  • I wonder if school was called off.
  • Have you ever seen a tulip shiver before?
  • Maybe we should cover the plants on the porch.
  • frozen daffodils

    Magnolia blossoms can be pickled, but obviously daffodils don’t freeze well.

Now, it’s your turn. What did you say during last week’s snowstorm that made you scratch your head and ask, “Did I just say that?”

Top Ten Reasons to Be Happy about a Late Spring

Winter Robin

Once March arrived, winter in these parts decided to dig in its white heels and stick around. Since the strategy is proving highly effective, this week’s top ten list extols the reasons to be happy for a late spring and make hay even when the sun don’t shine.

10.  Extra winter makes northerners appreciate spring more when it finally does arrive.

9.   We get more wear out of winter clothes.

8.   A late, cold spring gives female rabbits headaches, and therefore has a dampening effect on the rabbit population.

7.   The cold weather makes midwesterners more sympathetic toward Canadians.

6.   Shivering gives spring sport athletes an Iron Man or Iron Woman aura.

5.   Less time in the sun = less chance of skin cancer.

4.   When the weather’s cold, teachers have an easier time keeping their students’ noses to the grindstone.

3.   That first grilled meal of spring tastes better when it’s a long time coming.

2.   The apple trees bloom later, so there’s less chance of a late frost nipping their buds.

1.   A cold spring makes spring break trips to points south seem like a good investment.

What’s good about a late spring in your book? Leave a comment!