Making the Connection

Tonight, Dave met our new neighbors.  I know this isn’t going to be easy for him.  He has lived in this house since he was about 8 years old and for most of his life, he’s had the same neighbor living next door.


Remember Tim the “Toolman” Taylor and all his meetings with his neighbor, Wilson at the backyard fence?

They met in our back yard.  Nathan, our new neighbor, introduced himself to Dave, and they began to talk as they watched a pile of brush burning.

“What are the neighbors like around here?” Nathan asked.

Dave was honest.  He told him who would help him out if he needed help and who to avoid.  He shared about who would try to be your best buddy to the point they were a nuisance and also about those that you are lucky if you see their face once a year.

He stood out there in the yard talking to him and getting to know him for quite some time.  It was long enough for the fire to die down to just some glowing embers.

While he was meeting and getting to know the new neighbors, I was busily packing for retreats.  Yes, I said retreats.  I am “retreating” for the next 5 1/2 days.  First, Katie and I will be going to the Mother/Daughter retreat at Joy El Camps and Retreats.  As soon as I’m finished with that retreat and get Katie back home, I’ll be retreating again with my fellow staff members.  I’m looking forward to both retreats.

Katie and I have been going to the Mother/Daughter retreat ever since she was in 2nd grade.  We look forward every year to this time away together where we can be “girls” together.

Staff retreat is different.  We go as a group to another campground and usually have something that we’re working on together…a book, a topic, a plan for the coming year.  Though most of our day is spent working on these things, there are fun moments as well.  We always learn something about each other at these retreats!  Last year, we learned how competitive our Creative Marketing Specialist is, as well as our Director!  We also learned what kind of animal we were…a Lion, a Beaver, an Otter, or a Golden Retriever.  (You can check it out here: Smalley Trent Personality Test).  The year before, it was a game of “Things” that had us in stitches.  We learned “things you should never do on a bus” included: licking the windows, yelling fire, or letting Tanya drive.  We played late into the evening, getting to know one another’s personalities by the answers we gave.

No matter what the retreat, it’s a time to get away and to connect with others, a time to connect with God too.

I packed my bags for both retreats so I’ll be ready to drop one bag off and pick up another on Sunday afternoon.  As I finished, Dave came in the door.  “Met our new neighbors!” he said.

“Really, are they nice?” I asked.

“Yeah, Nathan and Christine seem really nice.  I think we’ll be glad they’re moving in next door. They have chickens!  Christine said she’ll bring you some eggs.”

“Cool! Fresh eggs!  I like her already!  Do they have children?” I wondered.

“Nope, not yet.  They’re quite a bit younger than us, but they seem to have a lot of the same thoughts and ideals we do.  I’ll think we’ll get along just fine.”

Now I’m anxious to connect with the new neighbors too!

Making connections with others is good, but a time of retreat and refreshment is also good.  In Mark 6:31, we read, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Jesus was talking to his disciples here and suggested they get away from the crowds and just have a time of rest.  However, the crowds followed and Jesus ends up performing the miracle of feeding the 5,000!  His “staff retreat” was interrupted, but I don’t think He minded.

Katie and I at last year's Mother/Daughter retreat.

Katie and I at last year’s Mother/Daughter retreat.

I feel pretty certain that I will not have to feed 5,000 people with two fish and five loves of bread at either one of my retreats!  But, I do feel pretty certain that I will connect with my daughter, connect with my cousin and her daughter who are joining us at this retreat, connect with other moms I haven’t seen since the last retreat, and then connect in new ways with my fellow co-workers.

We all need time away where we can diconnect from the ordinary and connect in another way.   I can hardly wait for tomorrow when my retreats begin!


Well duh!

This isn’t my typical blog post. Just wanted to put something on here to explain why many of my photos suddenly disappeared. My file storage limit was reaching its max here on WordPress, so I deleted many of them since I was “done” with them. I didn’t realize it would remove them from my posts. So, if my posts look a little strange at the moment, that’s why. Ooops! I guess I learned my lesson on that one!thCA95XQCP


Calming the Savage Beast

headphones%20closeup%20books%201900x1200%20wallpaper_wallpaperbeautiful_60It’s been ages since I’ve blogged, and I’ve really missed it! But, I intend to do something about it. Life has been a real whirlwind lately. Perhaps the biggest change is that my parents have moved in with us.

Having my parents move in with us was not anyone’s first choice for them. This occurred out of neccessity. Life the way we all know it has made it nearly impossible for my parents to live on their own. The rising cost of medical care and medications had nearly bankrupted them and the best solution we could come up with was to live together as one big family.

As we planned for the big move, there was the issue of selling their home…my childhood home. As much as Mom and Dad were praying that the house would sell was just as much as my husband and I were praying it wouldn’t sell. I knew that David wasn’t crazy about the idea of us all living under one roof, but we had a plan in place. There would be an in-law suite built on to our house.

Time went by. The house didn’t sell and didn’t sell. Mom and Dad were getting desperate and changed realtors. The price of the house was dropped. This would mean no addition could be added to our home (after all, it was depending on the sale of their house to get the addition added to ours). I assumed the whole idea was shot down the drain at that point and Dave and I were off the hook. They would not be moving in. I was wrong.

Hurricane Sandy blew through during the midst of this and we found ourselves hosting unexpected house guests, Mom and Dad for just over a week until their power was restored. During this time, our eyes were opened. Mom couldn’t care for Dad any longer by herself, and Dad looked as though he were headed for a nursing home and soon. It was at the end of that week that Dad became ill and was taken to the hospital, where (long story short) he eventually was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Medication was started and things improved with him. Dave and I thought we had dodged the bullet again.

With Dad’s new medications, he fell into the “donut hole” for Medicare a whole lot sooner and the price of having to pay for meds out of pocket wiped out what little money Mom and Dad had left. They took the house off the market for a while and tried to sell it themselves.

One evening, my mother called me in tears. “Would you please consider letting us move in with you? We have nothing left and we can’t keep asking the church for help.” Being an only child, I realized there was no other choice. I broke the news to David.

David was so supportive. I spent nearly every night crying. I had remembered what it was like living with Mom and Dad as a young adult and it wasn’t easy. Memories of why I moved out at age 25 began to return. Each night, I mourned the impending loss of my life as I knew it.

There were meetings and discussions and agreements made. Their house was put back on the market with the price reduced yet again.

One day at work, my phone rang…an outside call. “Ready for some permanent house guests?” my mother asked. They had a buyer for the house. I tried to sound happy and excited for her as she spilled out the details. I listened numbly as I began to think how I would break this news to David and Katie. I tried to think of the positives of this move and began to pray that the positives would outweigh the negatives.

That was the end of May. By the end of June, Mom and Dad had public sale and had moved in with us. Here we were, five people living under one roof, ranging in age from age 11 to 71. The final moving day was emotional for me. We were so worried that Dad would be the one who would be emotional, but it was me. As the last truck began to pull out from my old home place, I began to cry. I would never be able to “go home” again and my home was no longer just my home. My whole world was changing in a moment. What were we getting into? Time would tell.

The first week went smoothly. Dave and I thought, “if this is any indication how things will be, this will be easy.” Then, everyone got settled.

It started with little jabs about boxes sitting around and no where to put them. Little complaints about not having enough space. A spat between grandparents and grandchild over who got to watch what on TV. Expectations of who was going to cook and when unfulfilled. Housekeeping taken care of only in areas where they were residing and not touching other areas. Dividing out food in cupboards and the refrigerator as “yours” and “ours.” Bills coming in that Dave and I didn’t have funds to cover and not getting any help with common household expenses. Going from a family of three to a family of five makes a huge impact on a grocery bill, electric bill and what is deemed as personal space.

Fortunately, we had thought ahead to move Katie to the basement. She has a wonderful new purple room that is her sanctuary…a place of escape when the nonverbal passive agressive barbs are being hurled.

I thought this was the right thing to do. I Timothy 5:8 tells us: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” We were doing what the Bible said. Then why does it feel so bad?

No one told me it would be easy. In fact, there were several that said they didn’t know how we’d do it. Many have said they are praying for us (thank goodness!). No one told me I’d feel like I was 6-years-old again, or that I would feel like I have no control in my own house, or that I would have to make supper every night despite the fact that I’m working full-time and my mother isn’t working at all, or that we would get little to no help with the daily household expenses such as food, electric, etc. No one told me that I’d find myself retreating to my room with my husband just so I can talk about the latest thing my parents have done. No one told me that I’d see my mother roll her eyes every time my daughter does something she deems “inappropriate,” or that her doing that would infuriate me to a near rage. No one told me that I’d have a desire to get to work each day just to get out of the house and that I would not want to return home in the evenings just because I can’t take the stress of it all. No one told me that I’d feel like this was the biggest mistake we’d ever made.

I feel like a terrible daughter. I do love my parents, I just feel like we were never meant to live together. We are very different from each other and it shows…now more than ever. I feel like I’ve turned into some sort of raving lunatic, a beast, a evil villan for feeling this way.

But, I have learned that the “savage beast” can be calmed. I’ve learned that talking about my frustrations with others gets me advice, sympathy, prayers. I’ve learned to accept invitations to go out to dinner or visit a friend. I’ve learned to take advantage of every moment when Dave, Katie and I can be the family we used to be. I’ve also remembered that I love to read, I love to listen to music, I love to write, and I love photography. These four things have been a big part of my life lately. They take me away from the stress and yet allow me to keep close to my husband and daughter.

What’s done is done and there’s no turning back now. I just pray things improve and we learn to get along with each other and learn to have a little more give and take. As I write, I hear my dad snoring in his recliner in their bedroom, but I smile knowing that I have my own little retreat in my bedroom where I can escape from the sound. It will get better…it has to.

Paul said it well in Ephesians 4:1b-3 – I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. This is my calling. I need to be patient, keep the peace and bear with the difficulties as they come, all while doing this in love. It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

Praying for patience! (Yeah, I know…you’re not supposed to do that!)


Splitting Hairs

I knew I should have fixed it when I had the chance, but I didn’t and now I can’t fix it.  Oh, the shame, the embarrassment of my mistake! Had I known where it would lead I would have made sure to fix things right away.

It all started about two years ago.  One morning, while getting ready for church, there it was. It was only about an inch long, but it stuck up from the middle of my scalp like a beacon…my first white hair. At first, I was thrilled. “It’s a white hair and not a gray hair! I’m going to have beautiful white hair!” I thought excitedly.

Then reality hit. “It’s a white hair! I’m too young for this to happen! I’m only 40-something! No, no, no! This can’t be happening to me!” Without giving it much thought, I pulled open the medicine cabinet door, grabbed the tweezers, and with one quick tug the dreaded hair was gone.

“Phew! That was close!” I sighed and felt triumphant that I had stopped the progression of my hair turning white.

A couple of weeks later, “Whitey” was back. I knew my hair grew fast, but this was ridiculous! Once again, the tweezers quickly brought death to Whitey.

I was born with strawberry blonde hair. (Before the blonde jokes start, I have to remind you that I am more “strawberry” than blonde!) There were days growing up that my hair would look really red and days it would look very blonde. Hairdressers thought I dyed it and when I told them I never had, they made sure to tell me that women would “kill” to have my hair color. Well, they could have it! I was red-head enough that my uncle Glenn would call me “Red,” which I hated, and my dad would call me “Pumpkin head,” which I also hated. I often dreamed of being a brunette with naturally curly hair. Instead I had two toned hair that was straight as a board and as thick as three heads worth of hair.

Now you think it would be a blessing to have really thick hair. It’s not. It’s a curse! I couldn’t wear the “cool” banana clip combs that were popular in the 80’s. I broke five of them trying to get my hair in one before I gave up.  I had to wear super heavy coated rubber bands on my ponytails because the regular kind would break too easily. When I wore my hair up, we had to put so many hairpins in my bun that I felt like I was carrying three extra pounds on my head. Perms were a nightmare!! Because I like to keep my hair fairly long, one perm packet isn’t enough.  Usually, because of the thickness and the length, three perm packets were used, and getting the perm was an all day affair.

Now, here I am, a forty-something strawberry blonde who has never dyed her hair, hasn’t bothered with a perm for 13 years, and has faithfully trimmed dead ends, kept it conditioned and cleaned and how does my hair reward me? It starts to turn white! Ugh!

Well, back to my current dilemma.  About a week ago, I saw that Whitey had returned. I decided to let it go. Besides, it was only about an inch long. I should have known better! Whitey took that opportunity to invite his friends. “Snowball,” “Marshmallow,” and “Cool Whip” have made their appearance and I’m sure their friends are on their way.

Obviously, this is not me, but it is how I imagine my hair will soon look!

Obviously, this is not me, but it is how I imagine my hair will soon look!

Will I condemn them all to death? No. I’m beginning to eye the 50-something years (though I still have a couple of years till then). I may as well embrace my new additions and give them the same love and attention I have given their predecessors.  Besides, this is a sign of maturity, right?

Psalm 71:18 says, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” So, I guess I’ll embrace these old white hairs.  After all, I still have a lot of teaching to do with my daughter and my grandchildren in the future.   Just because I’m starting to look old doesn’t mean I have to act old either! And, I know that even though I’m growing older, God will still be with me wherever I go.


Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings



The other day, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. In this journal, I found stories that I had written about memories from my childhood.  It’s like my blog before there were blogs! These stories were written years ago, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. So, I thought I’d share some with you all…updated, of course, to use more adult language than I used when I wrote these stories. (I figured I wrote most of them when I was about 19!)

I grew up in a little town called Markes, PA. You know these towns. It’s one of those towns that if you blink as you go through, you’ve missed it. The town was big enough to have its own store though, and that is the source of this memory.

Gluck’s Grocery Store was in “down town” Markes. Not only did they sell groceries, but they also sold gas from the one pump they had on the front porch. Being that my grandparents didn’t travel very far, they would often do their grocery shopping here and I’d go along. Selection was limited, but you could get pretty much everything you needed as long as you weren’t particular on the brand name or size of the item.  I remember this place so well, because it was a place that I went to on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis.

As you went up the steps to the entrance, you immediately took notice of the big windows on either side of the door. What treasure troves were in those windows!! My favorite window was the one on the left. It always contained things that interested children. There were barrels full of kites and boxes of little airplane kits to put together. Stacks of coloring books and a basket of balls also graced the window. The other window was not as exciting for a child but excited the adults. Barrels containing new brooms and mops, yard sticks, galvanized buckets, and garden tools filled the window.

As you stepped inside the door, it was like going back in time by today’s standards. I only wish I had a picture of the actual store but  this one I found on the internet comes close to describing how it looked.

Candy Counter Weston

To the left of the entrance was the candy counter. Mrs. Miriam Gluck spent most of her time behind this counter.  I would be given a nickel or dime to spend at the candy counter. There was all sorts of penny candy to choose from! Boxes of gummy fish, licorice whips, sour balls and wax bottles lined the case. There were boxes and boxes of candy bars and Lifesavers, nearly any kind of candy you could think of.  Grandma would always go with me to this counter so she could get her supply of her favorite candy. Mrs. Gluck would scoop pink, white or green Canada mints from jars and put them in a brown paper bag for Grandma. She would mark the price on the bag with a black wax crayon. Grandma also wanted to spend time here for another reason.


Behind the candy counter, the wall was lined with narrow shelves. On these shelves were tiny shallow boxes filled with sewing notions. All you had to do was tell Mrs. Gluck the color and she would expertly pull the box from the shelf and give you your desired skein of embroidery floss or spool of thread. Other sewing supplies were available. Small boxes of thimbles and needles were on the shelves as well. Grandma sewed a lot, so this was always a stop when we visited the store.

If you went toward the right when you entered the store, you would see the ice cream freezer. Hershey’s confections filled the freezer. You could purchase ice cream by the half-gallon or pint. Pappy would often select several ice cream treats and have Mrs. Gluck’s daughter, Carolyn, fill a bag. Ice cream sandwiches, fudge bars, banjos, and popsicles would fill the bag. Pappy always made sure to get some root beer flavored popsicles (my favorite) and plenty of fudge bars!


Along the back wall was the meat and cheese counter. What ever you wanted, Carolyn would remove from the case, slice it if need be, and wrap it in brown paper and tie it with string. She too would write the price on the paper with a black wax pencil. Eggs were also kept in this case along with butter quarters.  Near the meat counter was another cooler of soda and a pot-bellied stove with a bench beside it. Here is where the men from Markes would sit and exchange news and gossip. Blair Deaver was a fixture on this bench. He was pretty much always there. Pappy would go to the back of the store to “get the latest” on what was going on in the area and he’d pick up his newspaper while he was there. He’d also eye up the hardware items behind the counter. There were tools, nails, nuts and bolts, and screws for sale all sorted out according to size.

One last stop was the center aisle in the store. This aisle contained bread and rolls, cookies and snack foods. We would take any items we had accumulated up to the counter (it was on top of the ice cream freezer) and Carolyn would check us out. She had an antiquated adding machine that she would add the purchases on. She’d punch in the price of each item and occasionally pull a lever to add the total.


It was during the check out time that if you needed any “personal” items, you asked for them. I recall several times going with my mother who would ask for feminine napkins. These too were wrapped in brown paper and tied with string so that no one knew what you were purchasing!  Once all your items were bagged, Carolyn would pull the lever on the adding machine to get your final total and you were “checked out.”

We often would get gas before we left. Pappy would pull the car up to the pump and Carolyn would come out to pump the gas. Motor oil was kept in a locked green cabinet on the porch. You’d pay for your gas and you were on your way.

Glucks grocery was a great place to stop in for ice cream or a cold soda on a hot summer day. We would often visit Glucks in the summer to grab some chips and soda to go with hoagies for a quick lunch. I would often leave with candy or a small toy of some sort. My mom and I bought several kites over the years from the barrel in the window.

Slowly, Glucks Grocery began to die. First Miriam Gluck passed away. A lot of the sewing supplies were stopped after that. Keeping up with those and the rest of the store was too much for Carolyn to handle. Then paper routes became popular and people had their paper delivered instead of stopping in to pick one up on their way home. Blair passed away and no one sat on the bench in the back of the store any more. Then the ultimate demise came when Jane’s Market came to Mercersburg. It was a big-sized grocery store and had much more to offer than Gluck’s. Soon, Carolyn stopped selling gas and many other things.


I hadn’t realized that Glucks was dying. I figured it was doing well still selling candy, ice cream and soda to kids in the neighborhood. I was wrong. I was about 19 years old and was in need of a new ice scraper. I decided I’d stop in and see if Carolyn still had any for sale so I wouldn’t have to go the whole way into town. I was filled with sadness as I walked in the door. Many of the shelves were empty. The adding machine was still there and there was still a fair amount of candy to chose from in the candy counter. The ice cream freezer was still running, but over half of the freezer was filled with Carolyn’s own food supply. The few cans that were still on the shelf were dusty.  The bench and pot-bellied stove in the back of the store was still there but looked as though it hadn’t been used for some time. I knew in a moment there were no ice scrapers there. Carolyn made some chit chat with me and asked about my parents.  She looked sad. I asked her if I could get a candy bar and she opened the case for me one last time. “It’s on me,” she said. I think she was just grateful that someone had stopped in.

A few years later, the store officially closed and Carolyn passed away too. The store still stands, but now it’s someone’s home. The windows are different and no longer filled with a treasure trove of items for sale.

I somehow felt a little resposible for Gluck’s demise. I was now a Jane’s Market customer. But, every time I eat a Canada mint, fly a kite, or eat Hershey’s ice cream from a box, my mind is taken right back to this place that held so many fond childhood memories. There was a lot of love and care wrapped up in those brown paper packages and many memories that I will always have with me.