When Imaginations (Fail to) Run Wild


Who here loves Lord of the Rings? Or Redwall? The Chronicles of Narnia? 

I'll wait while you leave your vote in the comments below.

True confession?

I don't love any of those -- or any of fantasy-esque books -- at all. Maybe I can give you A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Maybe . . . on a good day.

My husband, on the other hand, has always loved that genre of books. He gets lost in them more easily than I get lost without Google Maps in a big city.

And that is very easily.

We tried to figure this out the other day -- why it is that I'm an English major who wrote and edited words for 10 years but who can't get behind books that aren't "believable."

Trees don't walk. Beavers don't talk.

And there's no such thing as an elven language. (Please don't send me hate mail, LOTR people.)

I'm contending that my husband loves that style of book because it follows the quest genre of literature -- the hero who's been displaced and has to contend against hardships and difficulties to find his way back home -- and that that style of writing could potentially resonate better with men because they are problem solvers and fixers who overcome challenges and enjoy it.

The farmer says, "No dice."

Maybe it's because I've been writing for too long and I know the tricks too well. Or perhaps it's because I'm just too tightly wound and can't loosen up enough to let my imagination work in a book of that style. I've been reading biographies and autobiographies and history books since I graduated from college . . . because they are (mostly) factual enough to be believable.

My husband has too, but he also loves to read books that conjure up ideas and images and his imagination, and I'm over in the corner saying, "But it's not real. That's just a literary device meant to draw you in! And how does that split infinitive not drive you nuts? And he just used the same verb three sentences in a row! Mix it up, man!"


So I'm looking for help. How does an adult learn willful suspension of disbelief? I want to like that style. I'm just, well, failing at it.

Do I need to try the audio version of one of these books? Stop being so analytical? Hope that my enjoyment of this genre develops as I read these books to my kids?

Please advise, rebuke, encourage. Whatever it takes. I'm listening!

(And reading . . . just not the classics apparently. So please send help.)

Pencrabs and Other Birthday Abnormalities


For my fifth birthday, I got two spankings. I know this because my dad recorded me on tape (there was a time before iPhones, children!) recounting the story to him. And I wasn't the least bit sad about it either. 

My parents took my sisters and me to a nearby pizza place called Picadilly Circus. When the waitress brought our pizza, she also brought me a balloon, which I refused to thank her for, so my dad promptly walked me out to the parking lot and spanked me. 


After supper, we went for ice cream and then to the park. My sisters raced up the steps to the slide and then zipped down it, while pokey little five-year-old me stood at the top of the slide and screamed (aka: demanded) that they come back to me. 

. . . 

So my dad promptly walked me to the van and spanked me. 

It was a banner first day in the life of five-year-old Adriane.  

Thankfully, my little girl fared better on her second birthday. 

She got to spend her special second day with some of her cousins, discussing her current favorites: pencrabs. 

For those of you not in the know, that's a rare hybrid of penguins and crabs. 


One of her favorite books for a long time was one about a penguin and a crab who take vacations to the other's respective part of the country. 

So when she recently started discussing pencrabs, it was clear her birthday needed to feature them as well.

While she largely failed to realize that her birthday was different from any other day, her sweet cousins played along and ate blue Jello "ice cubes," "chilly" (chili), and crab croissants.  They drew her pictures of crabs on their chalkboard wall and made balloon penguins to hang on her chair at the table. They even donned mini party hats to sing to her. 

She'll never be able to make it up to them. 

Her Uncle Awesome lead the whole group in singing happy birthday, while she shoveled ice cream in her mouth as fast as she could and barely stopped to look up or acknowledge that anyone else was even in the room.


To her credit, she did take a break from eating a cookie long enough to open a Little House on the Prairie treasury from her aunt with a matching prairie dress her grandma made her. No spankings, but short attention spans. 

Halfway through her bowl of chili, when she'd picked all the meat and cheese off her sandwich and left the croissant (WHOSE CHILD IS THIS, ANYWAY?!), she reached for me and said, "Mommy, hand?" 


Of course, my very grown-up and yet so very little two-year-old. Mom will always hold your hand. 

Even when you're five and sass the waitress. 

Maybe after a spanking. 

But even then. 

Happy birthday, G.

bucking up, undersharing and cocoa

Cold schmold.

In MY day . . .

Wait. Am I not old enough to use that line yet?

No, I think I am.

Living in Missouri has made me soft, and it's not just from all the Christmas cookies. When the weather dips below 25, I start talking about summer and heat and how the perfect temperature involves me sitting on black asphalt at noon in the middle of August.

It also reminds me of my college days when I drove from my home in Iowa back to school in Wisconsin following Christmas break. One winter, the wind chill dipped into the -30s on my drive back. So while my dear little Camry tried its hardest to keep up with the heat, I wore a coat . . . while wrapped in a blanket.

And my 19-year-old self made it back to college just fine.

I didn't even have to tweet about my struggles or write a Facebook post.

BECAUSE THERE WAS NO FACEBOOK. Or maybe there was . . . but Concordia University Wisconsin didn't have it yet, so . . . basically there was no Facebook.

Then there was the trip back to Wisconsin when it was so cold that my mom let me take her flip phone back with me and then mail it back to her.

Are you getting this? This means I had no cell phone and was driving nine hours to school all by myself.


Or the time that the Wisconsin thermometer read -25 with a windchill of -50. I bundled up and went outside to warm my car up, and that little Toyota started up just fine . . . and proceeded to run for a good half hour before she even started to feel remotely warm.

I'm just saying . . . just because we're calling thing "bomb cyclones" and posting pictures of our patio furniture covered in snow and loading up on bread and peanut butter, we're not going to die.

Our ancestors dealt with cold just this bad and in far chillier living conditions.

Like, you know, soddies.

Log cabins.

Around fires.

And they very likely had no one to share it with other than those in their immediate family or party. No texting. No tweeting. No blogging. They just did it.

So here's to bucking up, undersharing, and more cocoa in 2018. 

making Christmas traditions


There are four days until Christmas, and you know how many people in this house are freaking out? Not one. Not a single one. Mainly because half of us are under the age of 2 and don't know what Christmas is. 

It's hard when you're a mom of young ones not to try to make all the family traditions in the first thirty seconds your kids are alive.  

I'm reminding myself that we don't have to do it all before either of the kids are two years old. It will come. 

I remember so fondly how special my parents made Christmas. We ate chili for supper on Christmas Eve accompanied by plates of crackers and pickles and veggies, and then got dressed in itchy matching dresses our mom made us (staying up until midnight for nights on end, I imagine) for the Christmas pageant at church. 


After it was over, we would nibble on appetizers and try to con our dad into playing a board or card game with us. Then it was off to bed. 

When we were older, my sisters and their husbands slept in the upstairs bedrooms, and I would sleep on the couch. The last thing I'd see every Christmas Eve -- through blind as a bat glass-less eyes -- was the white blur of our mom's beautiful vintage Christmas tree. The glimmering lights -- combined with the smell of fresh pine -- seemed just a little magical in our cozy farmhouse.

In the morning, when we were still young, our dad would announce up the stairs that it was Christmas and time to get up. I was out of bed with teeth brushed in no time flat, sitting on the floor by the tree while Mom made coffee and Dad passed out blankets to keep warm while the house heated up. 

My middle sister -- God bless her -- took what seemed like HOURS to get ready. It was basically Christmas of the next year by the time she had her contacts in and hair done. 


In the meantime, Mom would bring in a tray of cocoa and coffee and muffins and stollen for us to eat while opening presents.

And then, like little pagans, we would skip church (Lord, look on us in mercy.) and spend the morning opening presents, taking turns so that we could all see what each person had received.  

After presents were opened, we cleared away the wrapping paper while Mom cooked a feast -- tantamount to a Cracker Barrel breakfast -- replete with biscuits and gravy and bacon and eggs and grits. 

They are sweet memories, and they're etched in my mind as I think on how to make Christmas special for my own children. 

So as my husband and I start our own family traditions, we, too, will get up Christmas morning and open presents. Then we'll put the kids in itchy clothes and take them to church, where they will rejoice in Christ's birth, the one who came as a lowly child Himself.  

Next year perhaps, we'll come home and eat our own massive brunch, take naps, open a few more presents, and then gather around the piano to sing Christmas hymns, where my farmer will undoubtedly do his best to make everyone else laugh at some point in the singing. 

We will gather with family to eat too much, talk vigorously about the beauty of our faith and confession, and do our best to give at least one horrendous gift that causes everyone else to shrink back in horror and then collapse in giggles. 

We will not panic about everything being perfect or getting done in time. We will simply receive: from our Savior and from one another. 

And it's my hope that while my Christmas tree is not as pretty as my mom's and while I may will never make stollen (because honestly I never liked the taste of it...sorry, Mom.), my children will know that Christ came for us . . . and that is the only part of Christmas that matters -- itchy clothes, Christmas tree lights and all.

commonplace books and letting the laundry go for a day

"As one New York Times story about millennials in the workplace put it, managers struggle with their young employees' 'sense of entitlement, a tendency to overshare on social media, and frankness verging on insubordination.'"

I wrote this quote from Ben Sasse's The Vanishing American Adult in my commonplace book about a month ago. Looking at it again today, I had a great big "yep" followed by a mental "Note to self: You may be a millennial, but NEVER BE ANY OF THOSE THINGS."


Just reading it again makes me want to delete Instagram and call my parents to thank them for raising my sisters and me with plenty of resilience.

That's part of the benefit of keeping a commonplace book: It allows you to go back over what you've read, what you've thought on or discussed, what stuck out to you as you thought through ideas or worked through concepts, and revisit them as often as you'd like.

Especially if you're like me and have about four books going at the same time.

Not to mention the audio book on Geronimo I started today.

Did you know his wife, mom and children all got killed by Mexican soldiers?

Me neither. This is why we read.

Also, why are there not more hours in the day? Asking for a friend.

There's two things I should mention here because now I'm thinking about reading, which always gets me off track, because -- well -- I want to go read.

(1) If you're a stay-at-home mom like me, I highly recommend setting aside 15 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever you can spare to read each day. This was a struggle for me, even though I love to read, because there is always laundry to do or dishes to put away or basement steps to sweep, but my sister reminded me that that was just the point: They will ALWAYS be there, and if I was always doing them, I'd never make time for the things that stretch my brain, like reading. So, when both the kiddos lay down at 1:00 p.m. for nice, long naps, this mama finishes the lunch dishes and then takes 20 minutes to read.

And tries not to feel guilty about it.

(2) I keep my commonplace book handy while reading. That, too, was my sister's brainchild. If you don't use one already, you can find plenty of websites that fill you in on how to start and maintain one, but the gist is this:

  • Buy a blank journal or index cards or a notebook, and start reading. 
  • As you find quotes or thoughts or ideas that stand out to you, write them down. 
  • Find a way to organize them, perhaps by category or by the author or whatever works for you. But develop a system so that you can find those ideas back when you want them for your own writing or edification. 
  • Now, millennials, don't panic but . . . don't use your cell phone for this. Yes. That is correct. I'm asking you to kick it 1880s style (or 2000s style) and actually use this thing call a PEN. You'll be amazed at how you'll retain the concept you're writing. 
It's really that easy. Read widely. Mark things of interest to you. Write them down. Develop a book -- or a resource center really -- of other people's thoughts and writings that have impacted how you think.

People have been doing this for centuries. Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan -- all commonplace book keepers. Why not you too?

I finished reading Sasse's book a month ago, but I'm still thinking on lines and thoughts that reinforced what I already believed or that opened up an idea to me I hadn't considered before. And that, I suppose, is the end goal of the commonplace book: To keep your brain in a perpetual desire for growth, truth-seeking, and knowledge.

Are you a millennial? Well, then, if you feel the need to overshare IG stories or snark at your boss, let it at least be something worthwhile, something thought by someone long before you, something time-tested, something -- I hope -- you've written in your commonplace book.


Can we randomly talk about one thing I have been loving lately?

PS This has nothing to do with farming. Or cows. Or pumpkins even. I'm just so excited that pumpkins actually grew at our house that I have to show them off as long as possible, because it may never happen again. 

These might be squash-like unicorns right here. 

The Bigfoots of the fall world. 

The Loch Ness monsters of great pie fame. 

Are they supposed to be turning brown like that? I feel like that's not supposed to happen. 

Ok, don't look too close. 


Pumpkins? What pumpkins?

(The unicorns apparently aren't so perfect after all.)

Back to the point: I am loving how people are returning to making handmade goods they give as gifts. 

All you ladies who took part in the mug swap, I love that you are drawing upon your painting and handlettering and design skills, your cardmaking and cookie baking, your knitting and sewing and crocheting. 

I love that my mom sews baby clothes, my sisters bake amazing breads and sew adorable buntings, my mother-in-law cross stitches, and my sisters-in-law quilt table runners and stitch quiet books. 

I love that a new friend from the city brought me an embroidered tea towel she made herself in the midst of raising five children. 

And I love that a new friend from the country sent me a hand-quilted trivet she pieced together in her spare time as a busy mom of three and wife to an equally busy farmer. 

I love that seeing what each of these women make urges me on to do the same for others.

I love that we are slowing down and putting thought and care into our gifts as we are able. It's not for everyone, but for those who are good at it, who enjoy it, who give of themselves through the work of their hands, yes, I am loving that. 

So what am I making to give as gifts? I'm so glad you asked because . . .

You're all getting pumpkins for Christmas this year!

(Hey, I planted them, pulled the weeds, watered them. That counts as handmade in my world. No? Not buying it? Well, shoot. Back to the drawing board . . . )

Whether you're stitching or baking, sewing or knitting, stamping or carving, painting or drawing, thank you. You restore -- piece by piece -- my faith that there are gifts that will be passed down, not perhaps because they are the most impressive or expensive, but because someone took the care, the time. 

Here's to the work of our hands, to unique Christmas and birthday gifts, to crafting flops and baking successes, to laughter and awe, to making something for someone because he matters, because she will truly appreciate it. Here's to you!

What are you making right now? 

it's harvest time in the city -- errrrr --- country

When combines emerge and dust starts to fly, I basically start singing, "It's Christmastime in the city" because harvest means fall and fall is basically winter and winter is essentially Christmas, so I'm pretty much ready to start wrapping presents. 

While summer will always be my true love, I cautiously admit to not completely disliking fall and the sound of all the activity in the field, hearing the dryer on the grain bins running at night, sleeping with the windows open and watching the leaves change colors. 


But, oh summer, how our little family will miss you. Fall and winter bring their joys, but gone will be the days of playing in the kiddie pool, scratching around in the sand box, eating our snacks on the front porch, picking flowers from the garden and smelling freshly mowed grass. 


Farming, perhaps more than most livelihoods, reminds us of the seasons. It's not just switching from lemonade to pumpkin spice latte weather. It's switching from drinking gallons of water and trying not to get sunburned while welding on hot tin roofs to wading through the muddy slush of winter, chipping ice from ponds for cows to drink and warming hands around thermoses of coffee before heading back out into the cold. 

But it's not winter just yet. So for now, we will wave at the combine, cheer for truck drivers, disregard all the dust, slow down for tractors on the highways and light a fire in the fire pit when the evening gets cool. 

Summer may be on its way out, and winter may be on its way, but for now, it's simply harvest time in the country.

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