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No Sweat for This Fantastic Friday

No Sweat for This Fantastic Friday

This Fantastic Friday look back recalls a favorite Family Camp memory and showcases the Jolly Green Giant on a mountaintop.This Fantastic Friday post looks back at a favorite camp memory…four generations of family enjoying a magical evening on a houseboat. Though that was our one and only houseboat adventure, my camp job is still photographing the week’s events while other people sweat and toil on logging, construction, and cooking crews. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Camp Photographer, No Sweat!

Though we’re not at Family Camp any longer, I wanted to share a photo taken during Friday night’s jumping-off-the-top-deck-of-the-cruis-boat-highest-cannon-ball-splash-contest. I took hundreds of action shots, hoping to get a few good ones, and ended up with this one of the Jolly Green Giant crouching on a mountain top.

One of the pillars of Family Camp is a couple hours of hard work for everyone, every morning. Some people do sweaty and generally disgusting work like digging trenches, insulating walls, hanging sheet rock, mudding seams, logging, or hauling rocks from the river. Others do fun but complicated work like fixing three meals a day for 30 – 40 people.

A couple years ago I was asked to be camp historian and photographer. “So,” I asked by way of clarification while stilling the little flutter of joy that comes with being excused from sweaty, disgusting work and kitchen duties, “you want me to take pictures and write commentary about people doing sweaty and disgusting work and the cooks in the kitchen?”

“Yes,” the boss man said. “That’s what we want you to do.”

I waited for him to say, “Fooled ya’. Grab a pick ax, sucker,” but instead he said, “Have fun,” and walked away. I jumped on that order like a tick on a dog’s back and have been wielding my camera and computer ever since. But guilt has plagued me all along, when cool, clean and sweat free, I record the hard work and play of others.

But this year the guilt evaporated when I started running a slide show of each day’s pictures after supper. People smiled and laughed and remembered as the pictures floated by. And I finally understood the boss man’s wisdom in rustling up a camp historian. The construction and preservation of memories, while not sweaty and disgusting, is as necessary as cabins and meals. The record of our time together is shelter and food for our souls.

Thanks, Tom, for knowing what our hearts need and allowing me to provide it. I’ll do it again next year, no sweat.




Absurd Airport Announcements for a Fantastic Friday

Absurd Airport Announcements for a Fantastic Friday

Airplane adventures from years past in this week's Fantastic Friday post.Today’s Fantastic Friday post was easy to choose after my recent overseas airport adventure. The adventure featured in this look back occurred in July of 2011. Not overseas, but right here in the United States. The Man of Steel and I are off to Idaho tomorrow, and we’re hoping the warnings to parents regarding the whereabouts of their children continue to be heeded and only baggage is to be seen on the carousels this trip.

Keep Your Children Off the Baggage Carousel

After an entertaining and/or character building (depending on your perspective), virtually un-re-create-able travel adventure, we are finally home.


Perhaps the deer that darted onto the busy highway between Sand Point and Coeur d’Alene in front of our driver’s car was an omen. But since the car missed the deer or the deer missed the car (depending on your perspective), we blithely continued onto the Spokane airport and arrived there with time to check in and eat lunch. We even snagged a free pizza since whoever ordered before us never picked up theirs.

Buoyed with the anticipation of snarfing down free pizza once we landed in Denver and ran to catch our connecting flight, we blithely walked to the gate and waited to board our Southwest Airline flight to Denver. Maybe strange overhead announcements were an omen of what lay ahead, but we and the other passengers only laughed harder as the warnings progressed:

ANNOUNCEMENT #1: It is against safety regulations to allow children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. Please do not allow children to sit on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #2: It is against federal safety regulations for children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. When it starts moving, they could be injured. Parents, be sure your children are not sitting on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #3: This is the third warning about allowing children to sit on the edge of the baggage carousel. It will start moving in 2 minutes, and they could tip onto the carousel or lose fingers when it starts moving. Please remove your children from the edge of the baggage carousel immediately.

ANNOUNCEMENT #4: Parents, this is your third warning. (Apparently, the announcement maker had lost count.) Get your children off the edge of the baggage carousel immediately. The luggage will be arriving soon. Remove your children immediately.

We were still chuckling about the announcement 2 hours later on our approach to Denver, but the laughter dried up when the pilot mumbled, “The Denver airport is closed due to a severe thunderstorm, and we’re being rerouted to Amarillo, Texas.”

Amarillo, Texas?

No one was laughing fifty-five minutes later when we landed in Amarillo. No one laughed when the pilot continued his mumbling. “The storm has moved out of Denver, so we’ll get gas and go back. All your connecting flights have been delayed, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to make them.”


Except that half of the 200+ passengers were in line to use the 2 tiny airport potties, and  the good news went right over our heads. The other half were staring out the windows at the oddest looking aircraft we’d ever seen.

“Looks like a dolphin,” said the young woman next to me. “And it has NASA printed on it.”

“Or it could be Shamu,” I suggested. “Who knew there was a Sea World on the Amarillo, Texas airport? Or we’ve been rerouted to a hush, hush NASA site for flight training.”

Pretty soon, we were on our way and arrived in Denver just in time to board our connecting flight to Omaha, snarfing free pizza as we ran.


That flight was uneventful, as was our late night drive home and our arrival at 3:30 AM. We were asleep in our beds by 4:00 AM. Our luggage, which did not make the connecting flight is supposed to arrive tomorrow. And I cleared up the NASA Shamu mystery with a little online research. It revealed that our NASA Shamu is really a NASA Super Guppy. Which leaves only two loose ends to wrap up right here, right now.

To the person who ordered and forgot to pick up the Hawaiian pizza at the Dave’s House of Pizza Kiosk: It was delicious. Thank you so much for sharing your supper with us.

To anyone who was in the vicinity of Spokane Airport’s baggage claim area between 2 and 4 on Tuesday afternoon: If you know what happened to the kids on Baggage Carousel #2, please leave a comment. We could use some closure and a final hallelujah!


Checking Items Off My Bucket List

Checking Items Off My Bucket List

Workshop Speakers                                                  Bottom row: Gail Kittleson, Jolene Philo, Anne Fleck Middle row: Jean Vaux, Cherie Dargon             Standing: Mary Potter Kenyon, Sue Schuerman, Tamara Clymer, Mary Jedlicka Humston, Chris Pesek


I’ve never made a bucket list, though my list excuses for not doing so is quite extensive.

Too busy.
Too busy with family.
Too busy enjoying friends.
Too busy reading books.
Too busy writing.
Too busy planning the Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC).
Too busy living to plan how to reach the end of life without regrets.

But despite the busyness, I recently checked 2 items off the bucket list I never made.

The first check mark happened at WMFC. All the members of the planning board, myself included, wore green tee-shirts so we were easy to find when questions arose. That, in itself was pretty cool, even though I usually had to refer the questioners who approached me to someone who could actually answer the question. But, in addition to the green shirts, the members of the planning committee were issued…

…drum roll please…WALKIE TALKIES…

…second drum roll please…with HEAD PIECES and MICROPHONES.

So I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of commanding thousands of people–or in this case more than 100. But who’s counting?–using honest-to-goodness spy gear. Or at least a walkie talkie and head piece generously donated by Scheel’s. (They donated 12 sets, valued at over $500. Cool, huh?)

Grand as that event was, it pales compared to what happened over the weekend.

For the first time ever, my daughter and I co-presented a workshop at the Cedar Falls Christian Writers’ Workshop. The topic was What a Manuscript Editor Can Do for You, and the workshop sprang from our mutual editing of each other’s manuscripts last summer. We discovered that each of us made the other’s writing better, and that we enjoyed doing it. Probably because Anne has a talent for spotting writing weaknesses and suggesting ways to shore them up. And I have a talent for weak writing that needs shoring up.

It is a match made in heaven.

The match is turning out to be much more than me being able to fulfill a lifelong dream of speaking or acting with one of my kids–another item from the bucket list I never made that has now been checked off. The match may turn out to be the start of a new professional partnership between Anne and me to offer book coaching services, such as manuscript editing and book proposal assistance, in person and online. (More on that this fall at

We’re in the dreaming stage at present, but who knows what the future holds?

For now I am grateful that in the busyness of life, God touched my days with not only the childish joy of using a walkie talkie, but also a mother’s joy in partnering with my adult daughter who has become a talented, determined woman.




Fantastic Friday at a Writer’s Conference

Fantastic Friday at a Writer’s Conference

This Fantastic Friday, I’m at the Cedar Falls Christian Writing Conference once again. This time my fellow author and editor, who also happens to be my daughter, will be co-presenting a workshop about What a Manuscript Editor Can Do for You. With that in mind, what could be more fitting than this June 16, 2015 post for another Fantastic Friday?

Top Ten Things About Going to a Writers’ Conference

The bags are packed and I’m ready to head out for the Cedar Falls Christian Writers’ Conference tomorrow. Here are 10 top ten reasons to attend a writing conference, in Cedar Falls, Iowa or anywhere else one is held.

10. They’re a great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of other writers and to see if your inner insecure writer’s envy-o-meter readings are going down or up.

9.  Writers’ conferences are a wonderful place to make new friends.

8.  And they’re a place to reconnect with old friends, too.

7.  A good writers’ conference will provide information and concepts to challenge your comfort zone, stretch your thinking, and conceive new ideas.

6.  Each conference should offer confirmation that God created you to be a writer…or not.

5.  They offer time to reflect upon where you are now as a writer and where you want to be in the future.

4.  They also offer time to step back and see God’s hand at work in and through your writing.

3.  Somehow, unexpected doors for your writing will open in unexpected ways and under the most unexpected circumstances.

2.  Someone else does all the cooking and cleans the bathrooms.

1.  At a writers’ conference you are with like-minded people who think your obessions with reading, composition notebooks, ballpoint pens, and mechanical pencils are absolutely normal.

Have you ever been to a writers’ conference? What’s on your top ten list?

Sometimes, You Can Go Home Again

Sometimes, You Can Go Home Again

IMG_0800Last week. I went home again. Actually, I went to my hometown to participate in the presentation of the first Roger Hallum Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was created to honor Roger Hallum, who led the LeMars Community Schools drama and theater department from 1969–1975. Erica Urban, a senior who will pursue a degree in creative writing at Grandview College, won the scholarship. During a delightful visit with her after the awards assembly, it was obvious she was the right recipient.

In addition to meeting Erica, I was able to spend a lovely spring afternoon with Mr. Hallum’s children, Randy and Kourtney. We stopped at the house the Hallums built during their years in Le Mars. We toured the church they attended, which happened to be the church I attended, too. And we stopped by the high school where Mr. Hallum worked his magic: his classroom, the Little Theater in the high school and the larger theater in the junior high school.

“Do you remember how we called your dad on stage after the last night of The Great Cross Country Race?” I asked Randy as we stood in front of the junior high stage.

“I do,” Randy said. “And I remember how reluctant he was to go up there.”

“That’s because he’d given us strict orders N-E-V-E-R to do that. But it was our senior year and our last show with him. We loved him too much to let him stay in the audience.”

I looked at the stage and saw Mr. Hallum, surrounded by his students, a forced smile on his face as he held up the tortoise and hare cookie jar we gave him as a cast gift.

“Dad had that cookie jar in his kitchen until he died,” Kourtney said. “And the director’s chair, too. He cherished both of them, and the scrapbook your Thespian troupe gave him, too.”

With those words, I was back on the stage. Seventeen. Wearing my hedgehog costume. Crying. Thinking that my relationships with friends and Mr. Hallum would soon end. That I would never see these people again. That they would never think of me again.

But Mr. Hallum thought of his students, just as his students thought of him over the decades. Our gifts graced his house and became part of his children’s memories. Our memories melded as we toured the town. At the scholarship awards program, Randy even wore a polyester suit in honor of his dad.

IMG_0797By the end of the evening, we were fast friends. It was hard to say good-bye.

IMG_0796Hard, but not impossible. Because that day I learned–thanks to a cookie jar, a director’s chair, a scrapbook, and memories–you can go home again when you’re heart’s been touched by a dedicated, talented teacher who cared.

Mrs. Pollifax on a Fantastic Friday

Mrs. Pollifax on a Fantastic Friday

As it turns out, the protagonist of my current work in progress matches the qualifications set out years ago.Next week, I’m flying to McLean Bible Church’s Accessibility Summit. That upcoming event combined with mystery novel that’s my current work in progress makes this post from 2011 quite timely five years later. Before you read, you should know that the protagonist of the new series wears sensible shoes and underwear, contains her cellulite, and has absolutely no accent. At least not where I come from.

It Worked for Mrs. Pollifax

I am in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (just outside Washington DC) for the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church. To be accurate, the Summit begins later today, and I’m hanging out in the hotel business area because a new heater and AC unit is being installed in my room. My theory is that the CIA has hidden cameras in all hotel rooms in these parts, so they decoded my mutterings when the noisy heater woke me repeatedly in the night. Who says our government isn’t responsive?

The longer I sit here and people watch, the more glaringly apparent it becomes that I’m not in Kansas (yes, I live in Iowa, but please work with me) any more. Even though I read plenty of David Baldacci thrillers, Lisa Scottoline legal mysteries, Mrs. Pollifax CIA romps, and other fiction set on the East Coast to prepare me for this culture shock, it didn’t work. This midwestern gal is jaw-droppingly agog at the accents (this morning’s mix included British, Australian, Jersey, New York, and perhaps German), not to mention the fashion show that began in the Chicago airport yesterday and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

The most noticeable fashion statement thus far is the knee high, calf-hugging boots with three inch heels. Sported mostly by younger women who don’t yet realize “Bunion Builders” is the CIA code name for these boots, they look – well – really expensive, uncomfortable, and positively anti-midwestern.

The second most noticeable statement has been skin tight leggings, sometimes worn with bunion builders, sometimes under baggy, flowing shirts, and sometimes with short shirts and presumably thong underwear since no one had unsightly pantie lines. Apparently, fat jiggles are not considered unsightly in this neck of the woods. This is also anti-midwestern. In that part of the country, there are more fat jiggles per capita, but their owners tend to keep them well hidden.

I’m coping with the culture shock as well as can be expected. So far, I’ve resisted the infrequent urges to buy a pair of bunion builders, squeeze into leggings, or purchase thong underwear. Quite a feat of self-control for this midwestern, former school teacher who holds the door open for strangers, wears flat shoes and khaki pants, and knows better than to hug a Lutheran.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m making a list of anyone who looks like they work for the CIA, starting with the guys installing the heater in my hotel room. Once I get back home, I’ll mail it to the agency with an instructive note about how to make their spies blend in a little better, possibly by hiring midwestern women with sensible shoes, contained cellulite, sensible underwear, and absolutely no accent.

It worked for Mrs. Pollifax.
It could work for me.
Ya, shure, you betcha!