Thursday, March 29, 2007

Menu Items for April

April brings showers and here at the Chat 'n' Chew, we're set for folks coming in to join us for homecooked goodness (and to get in out of the rain.)

This month I will be hosting special guests to the diner to give you a little glimpse into their past lives. I called in my markers and got photos from those pasts. Then, I asked them highly personal questions. Nibby questions, like who their childhood hero was and what indulgence did they remember adoring indulging in. (One liked throwing cans at out for THAT one...)

To give you a little taste of who will be revealing all, take a look at next week's victims(-er-guests):

Monday, April 2: Mary Connealy

Mary is an author, mother of four girls and married to a farmer--all of whom she sort of used in writing her first published novel, Petticoat Ranch. She may well be one of the funniest people I know with a different sort of childhood, like having parents who pieced houses together to accomodate their large family (literally-speaking!) And she's just a good sport for putting up with me.

Wednesday, April 4: Jim Watkins
Jim is a dangerous man. And it's no wonder because he grew up that way--emulating his childhood hero. Check out Wednesday's featured guest, who grew up to write heavy topics with a light touch. He's a mentor in writing for me (and lots of others--he runs the Sandy Cove Writers Conference) and a fellow Hoosier.

Friday, April 6: Marti Suddarth

Marti is your everyday heroine in red hair. She can write a tune, play, or sermon for kids and still manage to teach in school all day, keep her family in the pampering style they have grown accustomed to, and keep Splash the Wonder Dog of beagle persuasion from raiding the neighborhood. She is one Hoosier who is more Hoosier than I am. Marti's been in my SALT critique/support group (Struggling Artists of Literary Talent) for years--and the first of my SALT Sisters to be featured.

I am hoping we'll have fun digging into the past, though not all childhood memories are good. But these things are the stuff which helped to form some pretty great people in my life. I am getting dirt, I mean, info, in daily from the likes of DiAnn Mills, Diann Hunt, Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, Tricia Goyer, Sabrina Fox, Deb Raney, Judy Gann...and well, I could probably do this for a long time(and hope I do because I've enjoyed this.) If you find that these prompts trigger your own memories, and I haven't yet emailed you (you're probably on my list...) then please, send me your email address and I'll have you spilling the beans in no time. It'll be fun. (We'll have cornbread with it...)

And be sure to leave a comment if you have a memory from your own childhood to share with us as each person is featured.

I can't wait to get started!

And to tease you a little--Can you figure out who this cutie is(already writing?)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Growing Up

What were you like as a child? Did you have a hero? Did you have a moment where you felt proud of what you had done? Did you have a pasttime that shaped you and your future career? (By the way--I still have this dress, but I can no longer wear it...) I've shared, haphazardly, some of my childhood memories, photos here, as I've gone through some of the pictures that I inherited from my parents.

I love children--it's why I became a teacher first, and then, when I married, had children of my own. Now that my children are grown and nearly grown, I find myself looking back at my childhood--my growing up years--and looking at those things that shaped the old lady I've become (by virtue of passing a few birthdays.) I try to share some of those memories with my own boys, and now, with you.

Since I've passed a milestone--logged my 100th post--and since I'm living in the year leading up to my Jubilee year, I'm finding ways to release those things I've stayed slave to so I can accept my birthday with grace and a thankful heart. One way to do that is to celebrate childhoods. Not everyone's childhood was lollipops and lilac bushes. Mine certainly wasn't. But there is still something precious in each person--joyful--something that is worth celebrating, no matter what your circumstances in your childhood were. Because of that, I've been asking some people about their childhoods. Many have already agreed to share with us here. And I've managed to dig up a few photos.

Next Monday I hope you return here and I'll begin the posts of those I've gathered, doling them out over many weeks and months. (I'm still sending out requests and waiting for replies of some.)Maybe it will prompt you to think about your own childhood days--and find those special moments that made you into the person you are today. I'll let you know who is going to be coming up with a list.

My mother-in-law, Imy, will be 89 years old on April 1st(first born and an April Fool's gift!) She has seen so much and she remembers a lot from her growing up years. I want to share some about her this week, because she's an amazing and interesting person (and funny!) She has been a mentor to many of us. She's what is called a "notch" baby, and her son and I are baby boomers, so that right there puts us into a special relationship. She was 39 years old when she had her second child(my husband) and 41 with a two-year-old when she had her first grandchild (our Tina, niece who is like a sister.)
I hope you will enjoy reading these as much as I have. And I promise to have some photos of those persons as children/young people.

"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."
~~Proverbs 20:11

Friday, March 23, 2007

Big Sky, Big Thoughts

Transfiguration Chapel, Montana

Big Sky, Big Thoughts

Today is my 100th post! And in honor of that, I'm taking a trip--to Big Sky Country (that would be Montana)to talk to someone who lives there.(All by internet--ain't it a cool world?) I was in Montana right after I graduated from high school. It was gorgeous country and I loved every moment of being there--including the Saturday night on a Native American reservation. You felt as if you could walk right out on the clouds up on Going to the Sun Road. And I'll never forget Gunshot Pass or the Bighorn sheep who baaaed at us and told us to get out their way! (Yikes.)

Tricia Goyer lives in Montana and that's who I want you to know, if you don't already. No wonder she has big thoughts.

She is not that old, but yet she has been places in the world and the past. She has helped us to remember big events, and the courageous people in those events through her fiction. My favorite genre is historical fiction--and Tricia is one of my favorite authors in this area. That's why I am thrilled to be part of her blog tour with her new historical, Valley of Betrayal. While her other novels have been set in WWII (I personally know and have known WWII vets, even in my own family,)this one is set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War before WWII.

Tricia was researching her fourth World War II novel, Arms of Deliverance, when she ran across an autobiography of a B-17 crewmember. He said he made it out of German-occupied Belgium after a plane crash due to his skills he picked up as a vet of the Spanish Civil War.

Tricia said, "Reading that bit of information, I had to scratch my head. First of all, I had never heard of the war.And second, what was an American doing fighting in Spain in the late 1930s? Before I knew it, I uncovered a fascinating time in history—one that I soon discovered many people know little about. This is what I learned:

Nazi tanks rolled across the hillsides and German bombers roared overhead, dropping bombs on helpless citizens. Italian troops fought alongside the Germans, and their opponents attempted to stand strong—Americans, British, Irishmen, and others—in unison with other volunteers from many countries. And their battleground? The beautiful Spanish countryside."

Tricia is passionate when it comes to telling stories. It shows in the telling of this story of a war that lasted from July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939. Her character Sophie,an American,falls in love, and ends up in Spain right as the civil war bursts into conflict, and for reasons beyond her control, she ends up alone. The beautiful paradise rips open into a battlefield with fascist soldiers pitted against Spanish patriots. Her safety route is blocked, and she falls right into the firepit of fighting. She ends up taking refuge with a brigade of international volunteer compatriots--and she tells the story of these people through the power of her art.

This is what stood out to me--Picasso also portrayed portions of this war in his art. If you are an art afficionado, then this story will appeal to you as art is an important part of the character, Sophie. Then, there are the athletes. History fills the pages of this book and if you need to understand the times, the history of this war, this is the way to do it. Her attention to details and the history are superior.

In Tricia's words:

"On one side were the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism. Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home."

But in this war there wasn't that "good guys triumphing over the bad guys" because there just wasn't a clear good guy/bad guy. Both sides did horrible things. Both sides had passion for their cause. To sort out who was whom, Tricia has a glossary in the book explaining the people involved:

also know as the Republicans were aided by the Soviet Union, the Communist movement, and the International Brigades. If not for the weapons and volunteers from these sources their fight would have ended in weeks rather than years. While many men fought side by side, their political views included that of liberal democracy, communism and socialism. The Catholic Basque Country also sided with the Republic, mainly because it sought independence from the central government and was promised this by Republican leaders in Madrid.

—or Francoists were aided mainly by Germany and Italy. The Nationalist opposed an independent Basque state. Their main supporters were those who believed in a monarchist state and fascist interests. The Nationalist wished for Spain to continue on as it had for years, with rich landowners, the military, and the church running the country. Most of the Roman Catholic clergy supported the Nationalists, except those in the Basque region.

"An estimated one million people lost their lives during this conflict, and terror tactics to civilians were common," Tricia explains. "These are the stories behind A Valley of Betrayal."

If you enjoy historical fiction, then this is one to pick up because it tells a different war story and is set in the gorgeous countryside of Spain--not to mention the descriptions of the artist's work through the character of Sophie.

The things I so like about Tricia is how responsive she is on her blogs--and how she cares so deeply about people. She's open and tells her own story throughout the blogs she keeps and you'll find her own story on Generation X Parents--there's always a story big as the sky with a love big as the sky with Other books by Tricia Goyer:
From Dust and Ashes: A Story of Liberation
Night Song: A Story of Sacrifice
Dawn of a Thousand Nights
Arms of Deliverance: A Story of Promise
Night Song: A Story of Sacrifice

Generation NeXt Parenting: A Savvy Parent's Guide to Getting it Right

Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Mothers of Preschoolers (Mops))

Big ideas and stories come from Big Sky Country--through Tricia.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Egg-zactly Spring!


This is not a trick.

Spring has OFFICIALLY arrived. This egg stood on end without assistance of any kind at exactly 8:07 p.m. in Indiana and it lasted almost 10 minutes before falling over.

Awesome,huh? My son, Max, has a science teacher who said it could be done, so he went out, stood the egg on end and it worked! When it finally fell over, no matter how he tried to stand it up, it wouldn't. Thus, spring has come. And we saw it--live, in person.

I've been dragging for a couple months. Had the flu for about two weeks. Was depressed, and feeling frumpy. I asked my girls (a group I've talked about before) for advice on a makeover. I mean, I have been in the dumpster attitude-wise. But this little experiment, demonstration, made me wonder at the awesomeness of God and the fun He must have thinking this stuff up. I almost danced with giddiness, and it was great to see Max's face when it really happened.

So, here's to Ms. Goshorn for suggesting it to her students. And here's to God for allowing me to see it happen--spring arrived and maybe I'll make it, after all.
I got this from Just a Little Smoother in Your Hand: A Little Stone blog. Kind of fun. You might get the feeling I'm a bookworm with a cheeseburger and a Coke. Hmm.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Almost Spring

Almost Spring
Spring usually comes in staggering steps around here in Hoosierland. Today it is 70, I have the windows thrown open, and I hear little birdies who have been absent for months. My daffodils are peeking out of the soil and the buds are beginning to swell. It looks like Mudlavia around here, but most of the snow has melted. Motorcycles are roaring around, taking advantage of the window of weather.
But come Friday we are supposed to plunge back into the 30s. Probably will freeze whatever has survived thus far. A few years ago I spent this time of year in Savannah, Georgia. I made my husband click a photo (though I hate photos) in front of this gorgeous azalea bush at a gun club where we were competing. It was just plain unbelievable to me that in the same world where we had left a blizzard and measurable feet of snow, this was blooming.
So it is in life. In one part of the world it is nice and happy, and in another place it is cold and dreary. I belong to a little group of writers who have kept in touch by email for many years now(and occasionally we have critiqued one another.) Two are in California, one in Illinois, one in Georgia, one in Alaska, one in Ohio and two of us are on opposite ends of Indiana. We share our lives, the weather, prayer requests, latest writing adventures or dreams. We've done makeovers, laughed with delight, and cried when one of us has hurt. We've celebrated a wedding, an honorary doctorate, a real estate license exam passing score, two graduations from college and getting a job, book contracts, selling articles, and buying a new home.But we've also mourned deaths, loss of jobs, marriage, illnesses with close family and ourselves, and disappointments of various natures in writing.
I live in the never-ending "almost spring" lately when it comes to writing. I know that there are plenty of others who have bloomed and are living their dreams in spring and summer. I've edited quite a few of those dreams that became realities. I'm not even sure what I'm doing anymore with my own writing. And I've been so ill recently, I can't even concentrate on editing. (Hopefully, this is going to pass soon as I have several waiting.)
They say spring is coming. I'll believe it when I see it!
(I know, I know--hang in there, Crystal! I am. I think.)
I have a new blonde joke up on my web site . Click on "Blonde."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Notice Any Changes??

Tweak, tweak, find, find. I like to improve upon systems, looks, etc. I changed some things here.

First of all I added a quote up above in the header. Love that quote. It relates to my tagline: Mostly Homespun, Thoroughly Hoosier.

Next, I added a widget thingie from my friend MacroMoments' and her Photo Buffet.(Got to have a buffet in a cafe', right??) She has the best photographs, and I enjoy her insights into life that she writes on her blog. I wish I could frame her photographs and put them into my house. Maybe we'll be able to buy her photos in a book one day soon--and when that happens, I'll be the first to buy that book!

Next, my friend and fellow wordsmith, Terry Whalin, has so much to tell writers about viral marketing and about the conference he just attended--so I added the "Find this page interesting? Send this page to a friend!" that he directed readers and writers to check out. That's just fun. I'm always amazed that anyone reads this blog, and I'm always so happy to get a comment, but this invites you to share the link with a friend. Thanks, Terry!

You can get the widget from MacroMoment's blog or make your own. You can also get the "Send this page to a friend," button.

Finally, maybe you've wondered what the Feedblitz box is to the right where you can enter your email address. If you would like my blog to be delivered to your email box, this is the place to sign up. If you sign up and would rather just come to the blog (which is the only way to track the traffic and readers) then you can unsubscribe, so it's not like a forever thing. It really is just a convenience for readers. I am signed up for several of the blogs listed in my links and when I'm really busy, I just read them in my email box (and can download them.) I also know when they've made a new post.

It is a gadgety world. I love gadgets, though I don't always understand them. I like sparkles and blings and worky things. If I find anything else, I'll be sure to let you know.

By the way, be sure to check out
Christian Women Online. There are articles, other blogs (lots!) and plenty of blings and buttons. It's a fun place to explore.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Back to the Future

Do you ever wish you could go back in time? Punch a few buttons, and you're back at that pivotal moment when you could have gone this way--or that way? Where would you set the "way back" machine?

I don't think that way. Going forward is my way, but somehow in writing this blog, I am looking back. And people have said to me, "How do you remember all that stuff?" I don't know. I don't even know why I am looking back at all of those memories, except that it is what has woven me into what I am now. And I love stories.

See this Farrah Fawcett hair on this girl looking toward her future? Well, I don't feel as if I am much different from her. I still have the same personality and temperament. I still sparkle with amusement. I still flair with anger at injustice. I still talk with my eyes. (I used to have teachers and people tell me I had this trait.) My teeth have been straightened since then, and I have a scar under my lip on the left side now from a head-on collision that I surprisingly survived.

I feel a bit of change coming in this blog, however. I'm old (in case you don't know me, I look EXACTLY the same as this photo...) I am approaching my Year of Jubilee. On the one hand I am reaching forward, striving to that goal. On the other hand, well, who wants to be old? And sit around saying, "Heh, heh, I remember when I walked to class in Colorado hiking boots and a down-filled coat, uphill both ways, in the Blizzard of '78 and was glad to do it! I remember the Energy Crisis!" (Sheesh. There is nothing new under the sun.)

Some things are worse now for me. A lot of things are better. And I'm just happy to be here and glad that you are, too.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Building Blocks

Building Blocks

I like my life in neat blocks of time. I like for things to go like clockwork. It is my preference for my lists of things to do to be checked off--in order, thankewverrymuuuuch. I don't like changes in the schedule or "going with the flow." So, of course, God gave me this life that is a minute-by-minute surprise or panic. He put me in the middle of chaos and unpredictability and said, "Trust me." Ha. Well, I still struggle but He is endlessly patient. He can wait forever.

Watching my boys come to a place where they are making decisions about their futures has caused me to look back on my own life and see what kinds of building blocks of time I've stacked up. There are a few blocks I could've done without, I think. If I could go back, I might have picked up a "T" block instead of that "U" block, or I might have put the blocks in neat rows instead of circling them. God gives us these piles of blocks, and we can't use them all. We have to make choices and then do something with them.

One thing that would have helped me is if I could have found out my temperament sooner. Something about seeing the commonality in a temperament would have given me more confidence about how I felt about some choices. Some choices were made for me--I didn't have any money, and a certain college offered me full scholarship while ones I thought I wanted to attend didn't offer me much or were a lot more expensive. I had this thing about not wanting to go into major debt. As it were, the way I chose assured that I graduated free and clear. Not bad for the first person and generation college graduate on one side of my family, huh? God helped me along the way with offers of jobs right in my field of study. Doors opened and some closed, but I was blessed with opportunities in teaching when almost all of my fellow graduates ended up in another field due to lack of teaching jobs.

At one point in my teaching career I had enough. One of my students had been murdered. Others, beaten by parents, and administrators who didn't do their jobs made teaching not what I had signed up for. It was too much. I hung up my chalk and clipboard and said, "That's it. I didn't sign up for this stuff and I can't take this grief."

I contacted a school about a career in dentistry. I figured this would be a job where I could indulge my meticulous nature, work with people, but people wouldn't be dying on me. I could find ways to make a feared procedure comfortable and I'd be pleasant. Plus, I'd have great teeth.

I met with the admissions guy. He came to my apartment to talk it over with me. I don't know what I said, or what it was about me, but he told me I was exactly the kind of student they were looking for--motivated, smart with experience with people already under my belt, plus I already had a bachelor's degree. But....

There's always a "but" in your life, isn't there? He cautioned me not to make a hasty choice and change just because some bad things had happened. I assured him that I was ready for this change. I wanted to do something else. But...he discouraged me. He told me to not rush into this.

I wish I had pursued another avenue or pressed forward in this quest. My husband was in school, and we would've had to take out another loan for me, so that was strike one. I needed a job of some sort--strike two. My husband said years later that he should've pushed me to go ahead and get another degree, but he was busy and occupied at the time with his own studies.

So, I found another teaching job and it appeared to be the "perfect" place. Two years later another student was dead at the hands of his mother and that was the final straw for me--I left teaching for several years. The timing worked out as my husband had graduated, had a job that took care of the both of us, and we had our first of four boys. I took a maternity leave and didn't go back to teaching for 8 years. By the way--my first child was born on his due date--as it should be for someone like me. When I returned to teaching, it was in P.E. and that was my favorite job of all the jobs I had. Unfortunately, life's circumstances caused us to move and I didn't get to continue in that job. I flailed about for another 10 years until now after that.

But now they have tests to give you to help you make wise choices for you and your personality. I didn't discover this until a couple years ago. It won't save you from tough choices or grief-filled moments or frustrations, because no matter how "perfect" a job is for you, there will always be something that will grind your teeth. However, if you are in an environment that you "fit," it helps you to press onward and still have a love and enthusiasm, despite the hardships that just come with life. I'm too old to go back to the beginning, so I'll have to adjust according to my age, but at least I still have time as long as I'm still breathing in and out to find a few more things to do. I can now cut out the "I hate doing thats" and finally do some things I love.

If you are interested in finding out your Myers-Briggs profile, here is a link where you can take a free test. You can also pay a small fee for possible career matches or go to the Ball State University career site and see matches for your profile. They even list some possible majors that this particular university offers to give you an idea of what kind of career might suit you.

Even if you are my age, this is useful. It's helped me to assess where I have come from, and then, has helped me in deciding "what next?" for me. It has allowed me to understand certain people in my life so I can better respond to them. Plus, I am more able to help others find their path, which probably satisfies a part of me that wasn't quite fulfilled. It's all for the good.