Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 1

Sylvia Meisner has been missing for two weeks. She lives alone in Maple Valley. Alone, but not alone. As it is with so many small towns, everyone knows everyone in Maple Valley, and there are plenty of folks who make it their business to know the business of everyone else.

It is challenging enough living in a small town, but many of the residents are related in one way or another. Sylvia Meisner is in her mid-thirties. She’s never been married but she has enjoyed the company of several men over the years. Sylvia is the niece-in-law of Mayor Alvin Thrashborn. Alvin has been mayor since the thirty-seven full time residents of Maple Township voted to become a town and changed the name to Maple Valley. Thrashborn’s second wife, Gwendalyn, is the sister of Arleta Forner, who owned Forner’s Drugstore until it burned down fourteen years ago. Arleta is Sylvia’s mother.

There was talk around town that Alvin had a “thing” for Sylvia. Oh, no one ever saw anything, really, but Alvin did seem to brighten when Sylvia walked into a room. Everyone knows what that means. And in Maple Valley, everyone notices when someone brightens.

Sylvia is an artist of sorts. Many of the signs around Maple Valley were created by Sylvia. She has a small studio behind her house where she paints. Oddly enough, Sylvia makes signs for businesses that don’t exist. They are shops she believes should be real, so she paints signs for them. For example, “Tom’s Used Blenders & Other Interesting Items” was one of her first. There has never been a used blender store. Anywhere, ever. No one complains because the signs add color to the neighborhood.

For whatever reason, Sylvia is gone. No one has seen her for two weeks. There wasn’t any concern at first. In fact, it was several days before someone said, “Have you seen Sylvia lately?” When the answer was, “No, I haven’t, come to think of it” the phones started ringing. And, believe it or not, there is no cell service in Maple Valley, so it happens to be the only town within five hundred miles that still has telephones hanging on walls. They ring the old-fashioned way, obnoxiously loud.

Everyone continued about their daily activities but concern about Sylvia grew. Last Tuesday morning, something happened no one has been able to explain. Two people were walking along the tracks near three tower bridge and found a car. The car, or, what’s left of it, is smashed and burned. At this point, there are no answers. No one knows where it came from or how it got there. Monday night, nothing. Tuesday morning, a burned car.

It wasn’t until officials looked more closely someone said, “That looks like Sylvia Meisner’s car.”

Sure enough. After a quick search, the car was confirmed to be Sylvia’s. There was no sign of Sylvia. Nothing remained in the car except charred seats and a melted steering wheel.

The two who discovered the car, Tom Swagmon and Patty Philers were questioned almost as if they were suspects.

“How could we have moved the car there?!” Tom hollered at Sheriff Terkinberry.

“When was the last time you saw Sylvia Meisner?” asked the Sheriff.

“Pete!” (Terkinberry’s first name. He and Tom Swagmon were best friends in high school.) “It’s me! Pete! You idiot! We have no idea where Sylvia is!” That was the end of the questions.

Sylvia doesn’t have any family outside Maple Valley. She went to school here. She stayed here. The farthest distance she has ever travelled out of Maple Valley was to Hamshover, Missouri, where she attended the “Young High-Minded Individuals” national convention. No one ever thought of Sylvia as being high-minded, but evidently someone did. She was invited as a delegate.

Sheriff Terkinberry is suggesting a door-to-door search for Sylvia. Since no one has seen or heard from her in two weeks, it’s hard to imagine a search like that is going to do anything but make a lot of people uncomfortable. After all, it’s very hard to burn a vehicle in a small town without someone noticing, and no one did. The car was destroyed somewhere else and moved back to Maple Valley. But why would someone do that? Is it meant to convey a message? And where is Sylvia?

Maybe the answers are close by. Maybe not. If something happened to Sylvia, something terrible, we may never know. But that doesn’t dismiss us from the responsibility of finding out as much as we can.

The problem with Maple Valley, especially with troubling circumstances like this, is that folks are better at making things up and calling them facts than really finding the truth. These days, truth is tougher to uncover in Maple Valley.

Christmas Is: Memories!

It’s a thousand million things. Things that you haven’t thought about in years come floating back because you saw a twinkling light and heard a song at just the right moment. You smelled that beautiful aroma of a favorite dish baking in preparation for your Christmas dinner and scenes from a Christmas long ago suddenly take over your thoughts.

Christmas doesn’t end just because December 26th finally intrudes. Christmas is a presence available to us all year round. We just don’t often take advantage of it after the middle of January when we are neck deep in trying to survive the dark, cold, blustery days of endless winter.

I love hearing the stories about Christmas my wife shares with me. She grew up in a wonderful family of eight children, five sisters and two brothers. She was number 7. Her dad loved Christmas and worked hard to make each one special. He often had to work on Christmas Day so opening presents was postponed until he returned, which just made the day even more special because it lasted longer than just an explosion of presents in the morning. Her older brother and married sisters arrived throughout the day with their families. Everyone pitched in to make dinner which was served after her dad arrived from work.

On Christmas Eve, after the children went to bed, my wife’s dad filled a large bowl with fruit, nuts, and candy and put it on the dining room table. Each child had a stocking, which was their dad’s white cotton work socks. Each had an orange, hard candies, and chocolate creams. Her dad decorated the outside of their house with blue lights, his favorite.

My mother was the light of Christmas when I was growing up. She made everything special. In those days, baking the turkey was an all night event, literally. She used to simmer the giblets with celery leaves and onion on Christmas Eve, which made the entire house smell of turkey. It was my job to break the dried bread apart for the stuffing. She mixed the bread pieces with egg, onion, sage, thyme, rosemary, celery, pepper and salt, then literally stuffed the turkey. I guess people don’t do that anymore because it’s “dangerous”. It’s a wonder any of us are still alive. The turkey baked all night and on Christmas day we had an amazing dinner. To this day, I remember the taste and that the turkey was always dry. But that’s why there was lots of gravy, right?

We always had fresh cranberry relish. I helped with that too. I turned the crank on the grinder that clamped to the edge of the table while my mom fed cranberries, orange, and apple into the hopper. Juice always leaked all over the floor. I never liked the relish when I was a kid, but I make it now and I love it. Another irreplaceable dish was a green-jello-cottage cheese-pineapple-I-don’t-know-what-else salad. It was great. Then there was cranberry jello (different than cranberry relish, but necessary), sweet potatoes I never liked but love now, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing (that roasted INSIDE the turkey all night and we all lived), pickles, black olives (which we never had at any other time), and rolls.

Christmas dessert was different than any other holiday, even Easter. My mom made Christmas cookies that were decorated beautifully and tasted amazing. Never saw them again for a year. There were several kinds of pies including pecan, which I never liked, but I love now. Pecan pie is a food group on its own. Just looking at it can make you gain weight. Three minutes of looking at pecan pie is 275 calories. No kidding!

How do you pronounce pecan? One time I was having dinner at a restaurant with a friend who grew up in Russia. The waitress asked if we wanted dessert and I asked for pecan pie, properly pronounced “pee-can.” My friend looked at me in shock and with his heavy Russian accent said, “Pee can? I don’t want pee can. Pee can is what you use for bathroom!” We had a good laugh and the waitress thought we were crazy. I guess the right way to say it is “pa-kahn.” Whatever. I still say pee-can pie.

Would you agree that the best part of Christmas dinner is turkey sandwiches the next day? A couple slices of white meat, Miracle Whip, lots of pepper and salt, more Miracle Whip (and not that low-cal-sugar-free stuff, either.) Spread the Miracle Whip on like you’re frosting a cake. And white bread is best. You have to have white bread because whole wheat or nut loaf won’t stick to the roof of your mouth like a good white bread turkey sandwich will.

To go with your white bread turkey sandwich, cold stuffing, jello salad, and a bowl of microwave heated mashed potatoes and gravy, and finally some of that fresh cranberry relish my mom used to make will set you up right. And to go with all of that, you have to have Vernor’s. Not Canada Dry, not Sprite, not Sierra Mist. Vernor’s. And that’s that.

It wasn’t our tradition to have a huge load of guests for dinner. Grandparents, an aunt, uncle, and cousin. That’s it. Maybe it’s because we had a small dining room which was really just part of the kitchen. I only remember going to someone else’s house for Christmas dinner one time.

One of my favorite memories was getting Christmas candy at church every year. The Sunday before Christmas everyone received a small box of candy. They were always the same, hard candies with awful filling, ribbon candy, a few peanuts, and chocolate creams. The chocolate creams and peanuts were my favorite. I still don’t like those hard candies.

When our children were young, one year my dear wife gave me a compact video camera for Christmas. I was so surprised! I still have all the video tapes and I plan to transfer them to digital format. The next Christmas I started a tradition that lasted until our boys went to college. I snuck into the kids’ rooms on Christmas Eve and taped them sleeping. I always videoed the Christmas decorations, the tree, the village, and the kids. Some of the tapes include my grandmother, who was in her nineties, sitting in a rocking chair wrapped up in blankets and a babushka.

When the boys came home from college for Christmas break I planned to video them again. They expected it and one of the boys set a booby trap in his room that scared the crap out of me.

I wish I could remember every single Christmas as our children were growing up. Thank God for pictures. We now have the joy of watching our children and their families making their own memories. We don’t make Christmas dinner anymore, we’re privileged to have our daughter and her family close by so we go to their house for Christmas. Oh we still make cranberry relish, jello, and coffee cake. But our kids host dinner. It’s always wonderful.

We now share our three boys and their families with their wives’ families. We’re happy for them, just sad for us when the in-between years come.

Christmas is three days away. It always comes and goes too fast. I have walked through the decoration displays at the stores as many times as I could. We’ve been to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland twice, (and I hope to go again while our kids are home this week), we’ve driven to look at Christmas lights three times, we’re almost through our Christmas movie Advent calendar. We have found several great Christmas movies on Netflix and Amazon. The ongoing challenge is to make Christmas last, long, long after December 25th.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

A Weird Thing Happened on the Way to Publishing a Novel

My middle grade novel, Smivey Stepward, is a coming-of-age, first love, mystery, ghost story with an unexpected twist at the end I really love.

The start and stop process I used while seeking a literary agent to represent my work to publishers obviously didn’t work. Obvious, because start and stop never works with anything. The only way things happen is through perseverance. Someone said, “If one tooteth not his own horn, the same doth not get tooted.” Wise.

Early on, a question from agents I kept seeing was, “What is your social media presence?” I didn’t have a social media presence.

I immediately began working on my new project. Trying, very uncomfortably, to create a social media presence that went beyond clicking on Facebook once in a while, wondering what Twitter was, and marveling at my kids’ Instagram pictures. The problem is I spent two years working on all this and completely stopped pursuing representation.

Now you know why I haven’t written any blog posts for over a month.

Writing a synopsis of a fifty-seven thousand word novel is excruciating. It involves summarizing every chapter in a paragraph, all twenty-two of them. Then condensing the paragraphs, weeding, editing, shortening, clipping, editing some more, crossing off, rethinking, changing my mind, and finally, looking online for advice on how to write a good synopsis and discovering mine was crap. Rewrite.

Query letters are almost as painful as synopses but not quite. A query letter has to have a killer hook, just enough information, and not sound like the back flap blurb all books have.

When everything is ready, it’s time to research which agents who rep middle grade novels are accepting submissions. That doesn’t mean creating a list and sending out a huge stack of the same things to everyone. Ohhh, no. Some agents want a query letter, synopsis, and ten pages. Some want three chapters, some two. Some want just a query letter and one chapter. All use some form of email, no one is using snail-mail anymore. They make it very clear paper submissions will quickly find their place in the trash.

Some agents use a platform called, “Query Manager” which is an online submission form and those are not all the same, either. Some ask for a biography, a pitch, a target audience, and one required the name of an actor who would play the main character if the novel became a movie.

Then the wait, and the inevitable “thank-you but no thank-you” replies.

It definitely is worth the work. Having a finished novel I’m very proud of and being able to present it to the publishing world is an exciting experience.

So there you have it. I haven’t disappeared. I didn’t stop writing. In fact, I’m writing more. Just not blog posts right now. I’m writing to agents, many of them, asking them to represent me in my quest for a publisher who will release Smivey Stepward to a waiting world.







Seriously Grateful

Blog and Photos by Dale Parsons

I followed the WordPress Discovery Prompts for 30 days. The last prompt was the word grateful. Rather than writing something serious, I chose to make it light and goofy. For example, saying I’m grateful my name isn’t Sigmund. Sigmund isn’t a bad name, I’m just grateful it’s not mine. I should have taken more time and expressed serious gratitude for so many things, and people. I’m doing that now.

Grateful means one thing to me. Family. It isn’t possible to put everything family means in a post like this. Or a book. Or a series of books. People spend lifetimes putting together scrapbooks of black and white photos, then Polaroid color photos, then color photos developed by Kodak, then printed digital photos, and now they’re viewed on a tiny screen, thousands of them, stored in a little flat box not much bigger than a business card you carry in your pocket. Not only that, but you talk to people with your camera now, and you can watch TV, listen to the radio, and look up all kinds of things. The one great thing about it is that instead of your family photos being stuffed in large books on a shelf at home, you carry everything with you all the time.

I don’t know if we ever dreamed we would have eight (at this point) grandchildren, but we do. We have reached the point where getting everyone together in one place is difficult. They’re all so busy with their families and work. Life recycles. When we were younger we had to travel to see my family and my wife’s family. Now it’s happening again. We’re the ones who often travel to see everyone. We love it.

These guys are our closest buddies, just a few miles from where we live. The photo is a few years old. The one in the middle is now taller than I am, and I’m 6’3”. At least I used to be.

This is what always happens to me at some point or other. I didn’t find out until years later the little guy on the left was copying me. He’s not really sleeping!

The little one I’m holding just celebrated her 1st birthday. Our son’s family lives in the Chicago area where he is an adjunct professor of Philosophy.

This young man will carry on the tradition of model railroading. We passed the family Lionel trains to him.

The little man in my wife’s arms is the youngest of our grandchildren. He lives with his family in the Nashville area where his mom and dad are on staff at a great church.

This is so cute!!

We are so grateful for an amazing son-in-law, and three beautiful daughters-in-law. They are all incredible, talented people. We are so blessed they are all part of our family.

Stories don’t make it. Photos only try. Just one word.

Grateful.

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons

Cody the Wonder Dog Goes to Houghton Lake

In over forty-five years, we have owned several wonderful golden retrievers. I don’t know how a golden could be anything but wonderful. Copper was our first.

Lady, the princess, was our second golden. We raised her from a pup, she helped us raise our triplet sons, had a litter of twelve puppies, and left us all too soon.

Cody was a wonder dog. He was already a year old when he joined our family. We purchased him from a couple who raised retrievers and he was the last of their most recent litter. He was terribly shy and wasn’t sure he wanted to go with us.

When we arrived at home, I let him in the house and he immediately ran into the living room and went behind the big console TV in the corner. All we could see was his head and his big eyes watching our every move. Our daughter came down the stairs, saw him and said, “Is that real?!”

I was the pastor of a small church at the time and we were preparing to build a new facility. Since we sold our old building, my office was in our kitchen. I had a very thick file on a shelf with all of the contracts, invoices, and everything else. We blocked Cody in the kitchen overnight and when I opened the door in the morning, the floor was covered with small shreds of paper. Cody mangled my construction file. I laughed and kept the secret between me and Cody.

Cody was absolutely wonderful. He wanted only to be a companion. He was gentle, quiet, big, squishy, lovable and kind. Everyone was a friend.

I think Cody might have had weak eyes because he was afraid of anything new, like a paper plate lying on the floor. He backed away from it like it was threat.

Cody loved riding in the car and he loved going on vacation. One of our favorite places to spend a week was Houghton Lake, Michigan. The resort we returned to every year was a perfect match of relaxation, swimming, fishing, and boating. There were six small cabins. In the years we vacationed there, we used all but two of them.

There was an old wooden dock with enough rowboats for each of the guests to use. Cody loved swimming, but he especially loved chasing the ducks that were always nearby. He chased them and the ducks let him get just close enough so he didn’t lose interest. They flew back behind Cody and he turned around and started the chase all over again. He played with the ducks until he was too tired.

Cody loved riding in the boat. He didn’t hesitate to jump in and the sound of the motor didn’t bother him at all. He was the perfect fishing dog. Each year we rented a pontoon boat for a day so the whole family could be out on the water together. Cody loved it.

Cody loved our little Shih Tzu, Heidi. The two dogs were pals for life. Heidi was tiny compared to Cody and he was very careful with her.

Cody was showing his age with white hair around his eyes and face. We began to see indications of something that wasn’t quite right. Cody was slowing down and we saw him stumble a few times. As the days passed, Cody’s condition grew worse. The doctor diagnosed him with diabetes and he did our best to treat him.

Cody started having severe seizures and we knew we were nearing the end of this gentle wonder-dog’s life.

I held Cody in my arms and tears streamed down our cheeks as he slipped away from us. Always gentle, always kind, loving until his last breath.

Cody is forever a part of our family. We still laugh about him, and we have an hour-long home movie called, “Cody Goes to Houghton Lake.”

Our love of golden retrievers has carried over to our kids. This is Lucy, our granddog. She’s a big, strong, lovable, happy retriever with a huge voice. Now she has a two-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy to help raise. She’s doing a good job.

Whenever I see Lucy, I think of Cody the wonder dog.

Discover Prompts Day 24: Elixir, the Magic Potion

It really is a wonder we survived our childhood. There were all kinds of home remedies we were subjected to. From “Lucy’s Juice” to sweet nitre, I don’t know how we made it.

When we were kids, there was a bottle of “Sweet Nitre” in the back of the fridge. It was always there, like a skeleton in the closet or a ghost in the attic. If we ever said we were ill, or if anyone had a fever, it was time to take sweet nitre. My dad was the one who came up with it, I am certain he was forced to drink it when he was a kid. Why else would he make us drink it?

Sweet nitre was not sweet. It tasted like a mixture of cow urine and cat poop. I’ve never tasted either one, but I’m convinced both were in the bottle of sweet nitre. It was never my mom who served it to us. Always my dad. It was the magic vomit potion. Moments after drinking it we were in the bathroom (if we made it) throwing up everything we ate since the week before. I am certain the reason we were vomiting was that the potion was toxic. Even our little bodies knew better than to keep it inside. I looked up sweet nitre several years ago, and it had a warning in big letters saying it should never be taken internally as it was POISON. How are we still here?

Another great thing we did was eat Vicks VapoRub. Yes. I said eat Vicks VapoRub. If we had a sore throat, my dad, yes, him again, put a big gob of Vicks on his finger and made us eat it. “Just hold it in your mouth and let it go down your throat slowly” he said. Ughhhh!!

My dad’s mother was the queen of all remedies. Her term for anything medicinal (whether it was homemade or not) was “lickdob.” “Put some lickdob on it” she said. Whatever it was. Sliver? Lickdob. Flu? Lickdob. Hungry? Lickdob. Tired? Lickdob. We had to be careful because some of her lickdob was nasty.

While I was in college I worked with a professor building houses during a summer. I fell and cut my leg and it became infected. I spent a few days in the hospital with blood poisoning. When I spoke to my grandmother she told me I should have put a beet poultice on it. I thought, “You can eat the beet poultice. If this happens again I’m going back to the hospital!” No, I didn’t say it out loud.

One time when our triplet sons were sick, my aunt and grandma were going to apply some “Lucy’s Juice.” Lucy was my grandmother’s sister. She made an elixir with turpentine, kerosine, Vicks, and couple other things I can’t remember. Luckily, we found out about it and said, “No way!!”

I know home remedies have been around for generations. Elixirs of all kinds people swear by. I just swear at them instead of by them. No thanks.

The lake is a wonderful elixir that doesn’t require me to swallow anything. Listening to the water lap the shore on a calm day is magical.

A favorite of ours is finding sea glass, or beach glass. We have found some amazing treasures. Some pieces have clearly been in the water for decades. My wife recently found an intact pop bottle from 1963.

Coffee is my go-to elixir every day of every week. All day. Coffee smells wonderful, tastes amazing, and brightens my mood, without fail. A mocha, on the other hand is like heaven with a cherry on top. Love it!

The best, surest, always available, never ending elixir is family.

Family with coffee? Oh, man. Now it’s getting dangerous.

Discover Prompts Day 18: New Skill Needed

Many years ago, we bought a vintage metal table and chairs. We have never repainted it, and this year the wear and tear is really showing. Rust is beginning to take over, so it’s time to take action.

I bought a sand blaster, which is actually a walnut shell blaster. I was sure it would quickly take all the rust and loose paint off. Didn’t happen. No matter how I tried and how I went over the same areas again and again, the blaster just wasn’t doing the job. Time to do something more drastic.

I went to the local big-box buy-everything-here-including-stuff-you-didn’t-think-we-would-have-and-you’ll-never-need store. Sure enough, they had what I needed. A grinder. This isn’t just any grinder, this thing will remove paint, rust, dirt, skin, and cut steel, wood, and fingers.

It has taken me three days of work to get the chairs ready for painting. I found that with each chair, I removed more, which made the previous chair unacceptable. I had to go back and redo the first and second chairs I worked on. I used the grinder on every part of the chairs I could reach with the wheel. For the areas I couldn’t reach, I used my Dremel tool with a small grinding wheel. Ready for paint!

I have a nice spray painter, but I’m going to use spray cans because I purchased them before I bought the sprayer. I could take the spray cans back, but that would mean a trip back to the big-box-buy-everything-here-store. I’m going to use the cans. My finger will hurt when I’m done, but that’s okay.

Now that the chairs are ready to paint, it’s time to tackle the table. It’s a heavy piece that’s hard to handle, especially with the glass on the top. It really is amazing the glass has never been broken. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

There is actually a lot more rust on the table than I thought. And I forgot about the ornate scrolling just under the glass. It’s going to be a tough job.

We bought this vintage table and chairs at the Up North store that was in Standish, Michigan for many years. The store was a favorite stop of ours on our trips up north. By the way, up north in Michigan always begins in reference to Saginaw. Up north does not begin until you are past M-61, which is the east-west highway that begins in Standish. Now, I know there will be those who say I’m wrong. They’ll say up north doesn’t begin until you cross the Mackinac Bridge. That is way the heck up north. Lovely, but north begins long before the Mighty Mac.

For example, people in the Detroit area talk about Otter Lake as being up north. Now that is just ridiculous. Otter Lake is not up north any more than Oxford is up north. Look at a map of Michigan. Real up north begins after Saginaw.

Now that we have settled that, it’s time for more coffee.

Discover Prompts Day 12: Feeling Light

One of the suggestions for writing about this Discover Prompt is recalling a time of feeling completely carefree and light. I gave that quite a bit of thought and I really can’t remember the last time I felt completely carefree.

We’re talking about a feeling. Feelings come and go. Who knows how many different feelings we have throughout the day? Feelings are affected by all kinds of things like appetite, weather, people, relationships, finances, caffeine, medications, hammers hitting fingers, entertainment, music, movies, conversations, news, social media, clouds, bills, illness, impressions, perspective, thoughts, possessions, lack of possessions, social conditions, religion, non-religion, education, emotions, bad coffee, good coffee, alcohol, smells, traffic, mechanical problems, temperature, rain, no rain, allergies, colds, flu, disappointments, expectations, hopes, dreams, plans, accomplishments, endings, beginnings, new surroundings, old surroundings, new jobs, old jobs, days off, weekends, Monday mornings, Friday nights, alarm clocks, time clocks, chimes, children, no children, parents, missing parents, driving, walking, thinking, purchasing, losing, acquiring, choosing, clean houses, dirty houses, embarrassment, gloating, plants, blossoms, leaves falling, leaves appearing, snowflakes, rain, water, having a boat, not have a boat, snow storms, snow days, lightning, thunder, ice, stubbing toes, getting lost, lights on, lights off, darkness, fire flies, wasps, mosquitoes, fish, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ants in the house, spiders, centipedes, chocolate, lack of chocolate, politics, oil changes, car washes, flat tires, motor homes, travel trailers, flying, landing, waiting on a tarmac, trips being canceled, getting fired, getting hired, layoffs, hirebacks, recalls, refunds, overcharges, cold food, cold coffee, cold tea, restaurants closed, pizza, bad pizza, Tweets, posts, stats, likes, dislikes, memes, non-memes, misunderstandings, understanding, Instagrams, Snap-Chats, comprehending, confusing, concealing, revealing, knowing, not knowing, finding, dogs barking, dogs licking, cat tongues, cats purring, water boiling, cold water, clean clothes, body odor, dirty fingernails, and living.

To be totally carefree, one would either have to be an infant, which is not really being carefree but to be unaware of cares, or not be living.

Feeling light, whatever that means, evidently is something different. Someone said that seeking happiness as a goal is a mistake. If feeling light is feeling happy, than great. But happiness comes and goes from one moment to the next, depending on what’s happening around you. Being generally satisfied could be equated with happiness, and if it is, you’ll probably say you are mostly happy, if you are satisfied.

If you are consumed with dissatisfaction, can’t get enough, no matter what you have it’s not enough, then you probably feel like happiness is always just beyond your reach. There is nothing wrong with reaching, striving, working, growing, improving, but not with the price of never feeling a sense of accomplishment where you are right now.

What I am striving for right now, is more coffee.

Discover Prompt Day 11: Bite, Bites, Bitten, Biter

I was only bitten seriously by a dog one time. Obviously, the dog wasn’t anything like these two. The only biting they do is on chew toys or each other. No, this dog had a look in his eyes I should have avoided.

I won’t say what kind of dog it was, it really doesn’t matter. Every dog has the ability to bite, some have not been trained well enough to resist the urge. I was at the home of some friends who had two dogs. One was very friendly, the other not so much. I was there all afternoon watching football. I was sitting on the couch, the dog was laying at my feet. Everything was good.

My two hosts left the room and the dog immediately rose and stood right in front of me. I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes. When I did, in a flash all I saw was teeth. I jumped back. Luckily, he didn’t get the end of my nose or lips. I’m sure they would have been torn off. I had holes in the bridge of my nose and my chin. No stitches were needed but I was shaken. Lesson learned.

The ones that hurt the most are puppy bites. The young pups have razor teeth and they can do some real damage. Especially when the owner, like me, teases them with their toys and they sound so cute and tough when they’re learning to growl.

“Who? Me? I never bit anyone! I just lick. I love you!”

Another kind of bite requires great patience many people do not have. One of life’s greatest joys is sitting in a boat on a calm lake, a fishing pole in your hand, a bobber floating on the water, waiting in the silence for a fish to bite. Any fish. Anything with scales, fins, a tail, and a mouth. Oh, and gills. Any time now. Please, something give me just a little bite. Wait. Patience. Quietness. Forget it. They’re not biting.

People can be bitten by lots of things. Some of them don’t hurt at all, but they can be expensive.

Many people are bitten by wanderlust and travel the world over, or the state over, to find that perfect spot that makes them feel what they’re hoping to feel, even though they might not know what they want to feel. Not knowing what you’re looking for is the worst kind of wandering.

Everyone is bitten by the boredom bug at some time or other. Everything gets old and familiar, but old doesn’t have to mean worn out or ready to be discarded. Old can mean experienced, proven, knowledgeable, and wise. Boredom is a choice. Some of the worst decisions made are a result of choosing to be bored.

Without the ability to bite, tasting and enjoying is difficult. Especially when it comes to cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls are a perfect balance of yeast dough, cinnamon, sugar, butter, maybe some walnut pieces, and best of all, powdered sugar icing.

One of the worst corporate decisions McDonald’s ever made was getting rid of the original delicious, mouth-watering, calorie-exploding, impossible to resist, amazing real cinnamon rolls and replacing them with those little hard cinnamon bites. Dumb mistake. The old cinnamon rolls were the best anywhere! I always ordered EXTRA ICING! Now you’re talking heaven. I actually ordered a cinnamon roll with extra icing and a small fry. I carefully opened the box and the beautiful roll was swimming in icing! I dipped my hot fries in the icing, then ate the cinnamon roll, being careful to savor every single bite. I scraped the box to make sure I enjoyed every last molecule of icing. Those were the good old days!

I was bitten by the love of trains many years ago and have never recovered. Not that I would want to. Watching a train roll by satisfies a little of wanderlust. It’s fun to imagine destinations, even though the train my only go to the next industry location. It’s still fun.

Here’s to being bitten. Not by things that cause physical pain, but by things that inspire living.