Top 10 Down to Earth Moments Since Arriving Home

Top 10 Down to Earth Moments Since Arriving Home

Life's getting back to normal now that I've been home for over a week. Here's what's bringing me down to earth.10.  Grocery shopping.

9.  And hot on the heels of #10…cooking. Every. Single. Day.

8.  No one follows me down the street yelling “La-dee, hey, La-dee, want to buy a purse? A rug? A scarf? Natural Viagra tea?” like they did at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

7.  Meals no longer include Latvian coffee (delicious), Turkish tea (fruity and sweet), or six kinds of olives on the breakfast buffet (my taste buds must have originated in the Mediterranian).

6. When the microwave, range, lawn mower, clothes dryer, vacuum, or anything else we own that hasn’t already broken down this summer breaks down, I can’t just report it to the front desk and expect them to fix it.

5.  I can no longer use there-was-no-iron-in-our-motel-room as an excuse for wearing wrinkled clothes.

4.  If I don’t replace the toilet paper roll and clean the bathrooms, nobody does.

3.  My family considers it perfectly normal when I join them for breakfast. My Latvian friends thought eating breakfast with an American was a special event.

2.  I realize that contacting all the people I promised to touch base in August–once I got home and had time to catch up–will take until the end of September or possibly until Christmas. If you’re one of those people, please be patient!

1.  Handsome as he is, the Man of Steel does not look like the Istanbul to Chicago flight attendant, who I’m pretty sure was the actor who plays Michel Gerard on Gilmore Girls. Then again, the Man of Steel doesn’t act like the character Michel Gerard either. For which I am eternally grateful.

What brings you down to earth after being away from home? Leave a comment.

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Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Mind Turning 60

Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Mind Turning 60

What's to love about turning 60? In my opinion, a whole lot of things.Tomorrow’s my 60th birthday, and I’m looking forward to it. Really I am, and for these 10 good reasons.

10. Ordering off the 55+ menu at IHOP will be easier. Five years ago, doing so made me feel like an imposter. Now I feel like I’ve earned it.

9.  The AARP has lowered their annual membership price to $12 in honor of my birthday. Thoughtful as the gesture is, I’m not taking them up on it.

8.  Tomorrow morning, I will be grateful for the ability to walk 6 miles pain free…even at my age.

7.  German Chocolate Birthday Cake! Need I say more?

6.  When people inquire about my age, and I tell them, with suitable self-effacement that I am 60, they will have all the more reason to respond, “You certainly don’t look your age.” (And this would be your cue to type something similar in the comment box.)

5.  Being 60 makes the fact that my mystery novel, set in the decade when I was in my 20s, is considered historical fiction a little easier to swallow. Mainly because I can wash it down with birthday cake. (See #7)

4.  On my official birthday, all those early Facebook birthday wishes will no longer feel like being pushed into old age.

3.  Once I’m 60, the Man of Steel, who hit the same milestone waaaay back in March, will no longer feel as though he robbed the cradle.

2.  The day will remind me of Mom’s 60th in 1988. Our son was 6, and our daughter was a newborn when the sibs and I hosted a gigantic surprise birthday shindig at her church in Le Mars. She was clueless, and the many friends and family members who gathered to honor her, was a glorious tribute.

1.  I’ll be celebrating my birthday with my family. What could be better?

I’d love to hear bout your 60th birthday memories in the comment box. If you don’t have any, see #6.

Top Ten Differences Between Latvia, Istanbul, and Idaho

Top Ten Differences Between Latvia, Istanbul, and Idaho

Travels to Latvia, Istanbul and Idaho led to these top 10 comparisons about 3 very different places in the world.Thanks to 2016 summer travels I have set a globe-trotting personal record which quite possibly will stand for the rest of my life. In the past 2 weeks I have sojourned in Latvia for a special needs family camp, in Istanbul during a 24 hour lay over, and in Idaho for our annual Shadow Valley Family Reunion Camp. Below are the top ten differences observed in the three places recently visited.

10.  In Latvia, the coffee is delicious. In Istanbul, the teas are delicious. At Shadow Valley, anything on a cool, mountain morning tastes heavenly.

9.  The Soviet-era accommodations at the Latvian special needs camp were adequate. The small, newly renovated, family hotel in Istanbul where we stayed was a beautiful jewel. Our pop-up camper on the side of an Idaho mountain feels like home.

8.  The streets in the old city of Riga, Latvia are immaculate and populated by tourists. The streets of Istanbul are filled with people and garbage. The mountains of Idaho are reached by winding along gravel roads traveled by very few people.

7.  The Latvian countryside sports the biggest snails I’ve ever seen. Cats swarm the streets of Istanbul. Giant slugs slime any Idaho gravel road that skirts a river or stream.

6.  In Riga and Istanbul, there’s no lack of pigeon poop. Deer poop rules the roost in Idaho.

5.  Latvian vistas are Narnia-like. Ocean vistas are breathtaking in Istanbul. Mountain vistas stretch deep, long, and wide in Idaho.

4.  In Latvia, I answered to “Jolee” because most people there dropped the final “n.” In the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, I was called “La-dee, La-dee” but rarely answered because my suitcases wouldn’t hold the carpets, purses, scarves, and trinkets street hustlers were selling. At Family Camp I answer to whatever I’m called: “Jo,” “Jolene,” “Aunt Jolene” or “Miss Jolene” depending on the age of whoever is speaking.

3.  Most Latvian food was an adventure in unfamiliarity. Kabobs in Istanbul were amazing. Food at the Idaho camp is a parade of yummy family favorites.

2.  In Old Riga, there are churches everywhere. In Istanbul, there are mosques everywhere…though the Armenian Orthodox Church was across the street from our hotel. At Idaho Family Camp, church is a gathering of people rather than a place.

1.  The special needs family camp in Latvia provided the blessing of time to talk to moms. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul offered the blessing of time to walk and drink in a foreign culture. Shadow Valley Family Camp gives the blessing of time to connect with family and to think and dream and write.

Where have travels taken you this summer? Leave a comment.

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Top Ten Thoughts While Preparing for a Trip to Latvia

Top Ten Thoughts While Preparing for a Trip to Latvia

Only 2 days until my friend and I board a plane to fly overseas. My mind is spinning with packing thoughts.In a few short days, a friend and I will drive to Chicago, and board a Turkish Airline flight bound for Istambul. After a 36 hour lay over, we’ll catch another Turkish Airlines flight to our final destination–Riga, Latvia–where we’ll spend a week ministering to moms at a special needs family camp. Here are 10 thoughts swirling in my head while packing for the trip.

10. Where’s my passport? In the lock box at the bank. Better get it and put it in the Latvia trip file.

9.  I sure hope the Turkish Airline customer service representative understood me better than I understood her while asking for a dairy-free menu and getting seat assignments.

8.  How much cash should I take? Where’s my debit card?

7.  Oh, I probably need to buy an adapter for my computer and phone chargers.

6.  What? My blow dryer won’t work even with an adapter? What am I going to do?

5.  Where’s my passport? In the Latvia trip file. Better move it to my nifty money and document purse.

4.  Hmm…what’s the weather like in Latvia this time of year?

3.  How many books can be packed in 1 suitcase without exceeding the weight limit?

2.  Where’s my passport? In my nifty money and document purse. Maybe I should just wear it until we leave.

1.  Clothes. I need to pack clothes. What kind? How many? Maybe a burka for Istambul?

What do you think about when packing for a big trip? Leave a comment.

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Top Ten Comments Overheard at Special Needs Family Camp

Top Ten Comments Overheard at Special Needs Family Camp

The first ever Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC) at Hidden Acres was a success. Here are the top 10 comments heard during the weekend.Central Iowa’s first Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC) for families of kids with special needs was held over the weekend. It was an unqualified success as these top ten comments overheard show.

10.  From a mom: My son had 8 s’mores at the campfire last night. We got to sleep pretty late.

9.   From the typical sibling of a child with special needs: I went on 3 trail rides this afternoon. It was my best day ever.

8.  From almost every parent, child, and volunteer: This camp is amazing!

7.  From numerous dads and moms: My massage was wonderful. I haven’t been this relaxed in years.

6.  From the sibling of the Man of Steel’s camp buddy: Hiram’s my buddy, too. Can he be part of our family forever?

5.  From several young campers: When can we go swimming? We’re going swimming now! We swam until the pool closed at 10 o’clock last night.

4.  From a young camper: Dad, will you come meet Kristen’s parents? She wants me to come to her house to play someday.

3.  From more than one parent: How long have you been running special needs family camps? You are so well organized.

2.  From the planning committee: We want everyone to know that God provided everything and everyone needed to make this camp a reality.

1. From more parents, kids, and volunteers to planning committee members: Thank you for letting us be part of the camp.

And one more from the planning committee to every parent, child, and volunteer: Thank you!

Top Ten Systems Failures of the Week

Top Ten Systems Failures of the Week

For some reasons, our house has been Systems Failure Central lately. Here are ten of the epic fails we've experienced.Our house has been systems failure central for the past week. Here, in order of occurrence rather than importance, are the top 10 whammies we’ve weathered.

10. Internet service failure from the Friday before Memorial Day through Memorial Day Monday. Not fun, though it gave me a good excuse to spend several hours at my favorite coffee shop sipping java, dealing with emails and writing blog posts.

9.  Muffin-baking failure. Even though I’ve used this recipe hundreds of times, every batch came out almost, but not quite, burned. To be honest, I was distracted by the antics of the baby in the house, which may have led to the oven temp set too high or the timer on a bit too long. I’m not sure which. But I can tell you this. The baby was adorable.

8.  Ant containment failure. In of all places our bathroom. They were everywhere. Two tries with Terro were required before the little critters found the bait and took it back to their colony. Sorry, PETA people, I have neither the time or patience to live trap ants and release them in the wild.

7.  Concentration failure. My ability to concentrate has been severely impaired because of the delightful baby at our house. See #9 for one example of the effects of this system failure. Other examples include misplaced emails, getting to appointments at the wrong time, and losing my watch. If you find it, please let me know. I’m lost without it.

6.  Debit card failure. Because I forgot to activate my new one, and by the time I remembered it needed activating, the paper with instructions was lost. See #7 for the underlying cause of this system failure.

5.  Outdoor clothesline failure. After 25 years of hard use, the rectractible, outdoor clothesline’s lock mechanism that kept the lines from sagging stopped working. Though the baby in the house wears cloth diapers, we had no worries because the indoor dryer was working just fine. (See #3)

4.  Lawn mower failure. The billows of smoke coming from the engine area were the first clue something was amiss, followed by a whining sound and the engine seizing. We all saw the smoke and trust the Man of Steel’s report about the rest. He thinks it’s the transmission, but the fix-it shop is so backed up, it’ll be 10 days until they can pick it up. In the meantime, a friend is mowing for us and the Man of Steel’s entertaining ideas of ordering a transmission himself and repairing the monster (see photo) himself.

3.  Indoor clothes dryer failure. The Man of Steel says it blew a fuse because of something in the exhaust pipe is plugged. So he ordered the fuse to be shipped overnight before retrieving the outdoor clothesline from the garbage, (see #5) and jerry-rigging it so the lines don’t sag. At least not so far. Since he can’t mow the lawn these days, (see #4) he’ll have plenty of time to install the new fuse and clean the exhaust pipe once the part arrives.

2. Door knob failure. Having a baby in the house means doors are kept shut and require more frequent opening, which is putting a strain on our old farmhouse door knobs. My daughter fixed one, but the other needs the Man of Steel’s magic touch. Hopefully, some magic will remain after the clothes dryer job and before he goes to town on the mower.

1. KitchenAid blender failure. The black coupling died as the daughter finished making humus for the baby, who eats the stuff by the fistful. Thankfully, the part is cheap, and the repair is one that’s been made at our house before. Plus, the daughter made a huge batch of humus, so the blender should be working before more is needed.

Are you dealing with systems failures at your house? Leave a comment.