A to Z Challenge: Surprise!

It was a really pretty evening, the sun had gone down gloriously and the sky was now darkening with stars and moon getting brighter minute by minute.  They were on another of his goofy dates.  They had both stayed on campus that summer for their jobs and he had been coming up with casual, out-of-the-box ideas to get them together.  This time he had driven them in his green Econoline van up to a scenic overlook where there were a few cement picnic shelters.  So why the briefcase, she wondered?  He opened it up and drew out a bottle, two glasses and a candle and proceeded to set the table and pour the wine. One more thing from the briefcase – a small black box, which he opened and turned toward the candlelight.  Surprise!  Yes, it was.

It had been a tough, challenging winter.  Finances were tight and the eldest child needed some therapy that they just couldn’t afford.  It had been a nice break when her brother and his family came to visit. The mood lightened and they had fun, all of them, but they were gone now.  Everyday reality had been happening all day as she cleaned up the house, putting away the post-company clutter.  It was about time to quit for the night and she went into the bedroom to turn down the bed covers, only there was an envelope on the pillow.  She knew it would be a thank you note from her brother, and it was, but there was also a check inside for an exorbitant amount.  Surprise!

They were excited, pulling her out to the driveway, telling her to cover her eyes.  It was her birthday. Her daughter and friends had been gone for a while and now they were back and who knew what they had planned out for her?  She was led out to the truck parked in the driveway and given permission to look.  There it was!  She had seen and remarked about it any number of times as she drove past the abandoned building where the Loyal Order of the Moose had met.  It had been dangling, high on a pole by one chain at a rakish angle. And how had they ever gotten it down?! And now it was hers – a 8 foot long plastic sign with the word MOOSE in large red letters. Surprise!

She sort of viewed life as living from one surprise to the next.  There had been quite a few and she was not afraid to think there would be more.

A to Z Challenge: A Q Word, Quilt

a log cabin pattern
a log cabin pattern

I’m a collector of cloth.  When a pair of jeans is no longer wearable, I cut the legs off and save the good denim pieces. I save scraps from all the garments I make for myself and others. I find cloth at garage sales. Some of the most interesting pieces come from men’s shirts (really!).  I know that if I don’t have enough cloth to make even a small garment, I can make a quilt. One winter I took some of my favorite cloth prints and made squares in the log cabin pattern.  When I had enough of them, my aunt Helen helped me decide how to place them together.

This quilt became a tablecloth.  Most of the cloth was left from a dress of mine (the darkest blue), some dresses I made for the girls (the blue and white prints), a skirt that I recycled (dark blue plaid), a few men’s shirts and assorted scraps, and a red print that I bought new just for the quilt. Since it’s kind of a patriotic color theme I use it in the summer over Memorial Day through July 4th. Every time I look at it I remember the dresses, the shirts and the people who wore them.  So, you see, I have several reasons for loving this item.

tablecloth of memories
tablecloth of memories

A to Z Challenge: P for Poem (hello National Poetry Month)

I have a friend, J. Carroll Barnhill (J for Jesse and he’s always wondered how he ended up with two girl names…). A few years after I met him he had a bad fall from a very frisky race horse and shattered his hip.  He came to stay at my house for his rather lengthy recovery and it was suggested to him that since he couldn’t do much but lie in bed, he should read or maybe write poetry.  Many years later he is still writing poetry and reading his favorites at gatherings of all kinds.  He doesn’t type much, which is why I’ve gotten to type most of his creations and they are all stored on my computer. As “keeper of the anthologies” I wrote this poem for him and it was included in the preface of his first book.


Another Silly Poem


“Another silly poem,” he said, “for you to type today.”

“You probably don’t have time for this, but I thought I’d ask anyway.”

The words are scrawled on whatever’s at hand, envelope, napkin or pad.

Sometimes hard to read, grammatically strange, but inspired by a vision he’d had.


His words, his thoughts, his moments of life, captured with pen and ink

Are presented to me with a hopeful smile and then “What do you think?”

Obviously bursting with pride at this “newborn thing” he’s made,

Yet giving his feelings a place to hide in case I don’t give a good grade.


All his years of living, places and times, simply written down

Passed on to those who identify, who marvel, who laugh or frown

Or cry or argue or shake their heads – amazement on their face.

How can so many words jump out from such an unlikely place?


For he’s been a man of action, a workman with his hands.

Setting poles, stringing wires, driving machines, caring for horses and land,

Loving and losing, rejecting and choosing – no busier person around.

Who would think he’d have dared to try this new thing, this talent freshly found.


It’s his courage that takes the time to share and cares to pass things on

It’s his joy that sees the fun and rhyme, and hope life’s built upon.

Word upon word, one page at a time, a life I’ve never known…

So with respect I sit to type “another silly poem”.


Shirley Dietz © 2006

A to Z Challenge: O for Orion Nebula

Many times the husband and I would look up at the night sky while taking a walk and notice three bright stars, quite close together. One of us would always have to say “There’s Orion in the sky.” I guess because it’s one of the easiest for us to see it’s a favorite. I thought you might like to know some fascinating things about it. It is beautiful.


I don’t know why but the letter O has been the hardest for me so far. I’ve been thinking about it for days. O well…

A to Z Challenge: L, Letters


Dear _____,

Please write me a letter. I know email is faster and easier and cheaper but sometimes I like the way “snail mail” slows things down.  I like seeing that fat envelope in the mailbox, taking it out and reading it while I walk back to the house.  Then I read it again with a cup of tea and think about what it said.  And I can wait for a day or two before I answer because there is no pressure or expectation – we know mail takes days.  I can take my time thinking and writing back.

I love to see your handwriting and don’t want to forget what it looks like, and if you draw a funny picture I like that too.  Sometimes you spill something on your paper or maybe it smells like your hand lotion and it makes me feel more like I’m right there with you.  And I know how much time you invested in the writing and that speaks of love and care.

I know when I sit to write a handwritten note these days it almost feels like I’m rebelling against technology – makes me feel retro on purpose.  And seeing the rounded letters flowing from my pen is artistically pleasing to me.  As I think and write the long way, my thoughts come a little clearer and suddenly I am more sure of what I’m thinking.  It is a special joy to me when you save my letters and return them to me, giving me a record of my times as good as any journal.  I know I’ve forgotten details of events that come right back to me when I pick up an old letter and re-read it.  That old box I keep letters in doesn’t really take up that much room and it’s kind of nice not to have to hunt in cyberspace for hours on end.  You have a box like that too, don’t you? No? How sad.  You should start one.

Someday I want to read to you the letters my great-great-grandmother wrote.  Wow, what a window on her world!  Things were so different and yet so the same.  It does me good to see that thread of sameness in our lives and I think you would like seeing it too.  How much I would have missed if I had not been able to know her through her letters.  Want to know where I got my stubborn streak or quirky sense of humor? I think I know…

Well, all for now.  I know you’re busy but don’t be afraid to sit a spell and write me a page or two.  The world won’t come to an end (probably not) if you do.  I’ll be watching for the mail.

Yours truly,

A Lover of Letters

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A to Z Challenge: K is Kicking

The really strange thing about dreams is that they turn people into unrecognizable variations of themselves. They think and do things while dreaming that they probably would never do in real life – and I don’t mean that they dream they are doing those things. They actually do those things.

To preserve anonymity, I’m not going to say who did this, but the other night someone was dreaming that they were being threatened by a huge bad guy. The dreamer (not saying who) knew that they couldn’t get away by running. The only good strategy they had was to lie on their back, wait till the bad guy was above them, and then swiftly and decisively, kick their head off (the solution, of course!). This they proceeded to do, followed by several loud noises and the sound of breaking glass.

This woke me up, searching for a light and looking to see if the husband was in bed and okay. The dreamer (anonymous) was rubbing his ankle and surveying the damage. Somehow the bedside lamp had totally lost it’s lampshade and was hanging from the wall on a strange angle. On the marble top bedside table was a broken pitcher vase with it’s flowers all awry.

There are two points to this story. The first is this – if you sleep with a dreamer make sure his feet are pointing away from you and sleep lightly. The second is, if you are a bad guy, don’t sneak in our house at night unless you want your head kicked off. Seriously.

Alas, she is broken
Alas, she is broken

A to Z Challenge: J is for Journey

Journey is a very romantic word for going someplace. The word has always sounded to me like it had purpose connected to it – a journey is for a reason and has value at its end. Evan and Claire were quite young and in my charge for a week when their parents were on a vacation. When taking care of children one of my fears has always been that I will run out of things to do to entertain them. And a week is a long time.  I decided to whet their curiosity and told them we would be going on a journey one of those days, but I did not tell them where or why (because I hadn’t yet figured that out).

Evan and Claire lived in the small Wisconsin town where I had grown up. I had memories of the places that I had played in and explored as a child that had captivated me – the farm, the backyard woods, the beautiful spring fed Round Lake. The purpose of the journey would be to share the magic of this outdoor wonderland. The challenge of the journey would be to keep it simple enough for a 5 and 8 year old to appreciate without making it too boring or tiring. Clearly food had to be involved.

Keeping our destination a secret, I packed peanut butter, apples, nuts and water for all of us. The children were excited to get into their car seats and head out on the journey.  We drove to the countryside and pulled into a field.  Just walking through the tall grass in a place they’d never been, carrying their backpacks and provisions, they were full of questions. They looked at bugs and plants and small animals, birds.  I made them count how many different sounds they could hear if they listened really hard.  The woods were even more magical with the fall colors at their peak. There was a golden glow on the forest floor and in the canopy with leaves falling everywhere. We ran to the places I had built forts and given certain trees names of their own. We climbed and balanced and explored an old machinery graveyard.  We ate our snacks nestled in the leaves.  I hope the kids had as much fun as I did, visiting my favorite places. There is something very special about revisiting places with a child and seeing them again with fresh eyes, fresh excitement.

We’ve had other journeys since and the name has stuck.  They ask me about their journeys and refer to them when we’re talking about times past. I’ll bet someday they will take their own children on journeys. What place could you share with a child on a journey?

Journey to the woods
Journey to the woods
A Special Journey
A Special Journey

A to Z Challenge: I – Images

Images: Colossians 3:10

I think because you think

“My thoughts are higher than your thoughts…”

I reason because you reason

“Come let us reason together…”

I love because you love

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends…”

I live because you live

“I am the way, the truth and the life…”

I know because you have known me

“before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely…”

I work because you work

“I have finished the work which you gave me…”

I grieve because you grieved

“Jesus wept.”

I suffer because you suffered

“he learned obedience from what he suffered…”

I know what is beautiful and good because you know

He saw all that he had made and it was very good…”

“…the new self, which is being renewed in the image of its Creator.”




A to Z Challenge: Hair starts with H (so does Hide)


And what do hair and hide have in common? Hide is what you want to do if you have bad hair. Hence, another h word, Hat.

Honestly (another h word) we can’t help but notice a person’s head, the majority of which is covered with hair. Regardless of culture, race, or gender humans have a lot invested in their hair.  An African-American friend told me that when they get their hair done, spending considerable time and money on it, they tell even their husbands “don’t touch my hair!” It’s important stuff.

Lately I have been considering retirement and the necessity of cutting back on expenses. We have saved money the last 41 years by the husband enduring having his hair cut by me. He may have gone to a barber one or two times but I can’t remember when. So I am developing the strategy of saving money on my hair cuts by 1) not cutting it or 2) cutting it myself. In the past a good cut by someone I trust has cost me at least $50, so I’m going to save a couple hundred a year even by conservative figuring.  Having considered this I approached the scissor moment a couple of times and then chickened out. Even being not too happy with how I look at present is better than having to hide under a hat for six months while a mistake grows out.

This morning, struck with sudden, irrational bravery I started in before I could change my mind. It’s only hair, right? It’s not like I’m deciding to cut off an arm or a couple legs. And I have to learn to do it if I’m going to retire (that might be a bit of an exaggeration). I looked at styles and how-to’s on the internet. If you want to convince yourself that we care about this subject just start looking – I found my target head of hair and a progression of how this person looked, season by season for years of her life.

This cut is not a radical change for me but it is four inches shorter and believe me, there is a trick to cutting something behind you in a mirror. Go ahead, try it.