School Time!

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Get out your paper and pencils—or iPads, as some schools have it. Time for a

POP QUIZ!

1. Which amendment in the Bill of Rights protects a citizen in criminal cases, specifying that the court cannot require or compel one to testify or bear witness against him or herself?

a. Amendment I
b. Amendment III
c. Amendment V
d. Amendment VII

2. A zebra’s stripes are its defense against lions and hyenas, two predators that have which fact in common?

a. Their females are predominantly 10% larger than their males.
b. They are both part of the cat family.
c. They can run up to 50 miles per hour.
d. They are color blind.

3. What is wn?

45 = 5/9 x wn

a. 81
b. 72
c. 40
d. 76

4. What prophet succeeded Elijah, asking that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit be upon him?

a. Noah
b. Elisha
c. Isaiah
d. Benhadad

5. Complete the sentence with the correct verb form and explanation.

“I wish I (was, were) finished with this quiz.”

a. was; singular verb form agrees with singular subject
b. were; ‘if’ or ‘wish’ changes verb to subjunctive mood
c. was; realistic wish places verb in indicative mood
d. It is a matter of hot debate.

 

The answers are:

1. c (That’s what “I plead the fifth” means.)
2. d (The zebra’s stripes were a dead giveaway, right?)
3. a (It took me forever to figure this one out. Math is not my friend.)
4. b (II Kings 2:9)
5. c (I thought it was ‘b’ until I researched it online. It’s a freebie if you went with ‘d.’)

Have you ever wondered what ends up knocking around in this brain of mine after a day of homeschooling? Well, there you have it.

And everyone needs their thirty minutes of aerobic exercise!

Everyone has a story: Rilla Zerbert

Rilla Z:

Shelly asked me three questions. How would you answer?

Originally posted on The Goal List:

After introducing the mini-interviews last week, I’ve received a lot of interest in continuing them, so consider them now a permanent part of the blog!

Today’s mini-interview is with Rilla Zerbert, an American writer working on a new book called Dragonfly Prince.

Rilla Zerbert - Photo used with permission

Rilla Zerbert – Photo used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
My temporal dream is to publish my book, Dragonfly Prince. It’s a modern Alice-In-Neverland adventure.

My eternal dream is to go to heaven. I want to be with God always. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn what it is to love in an eternal sense.

What is something on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit Ta Prohm temple monastery, dating from 1186 A.D. I’ll like to see with my own eyes the decorative carvings of the animals, specifically the stegosaurus. I get super excited by the evidence…

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Heads Up! I NEED Your Vote!

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My heart is racing. I want to throw up my hands and scream like the crazy woman I am.

My short story, “Sara’s Whistle,” has been shortlisted! It’s been accepted by the judges to compete for first prize in MASH magazine’s quarterly competition!

You guys, this is my first contest. And I need your support. I need your vote.

MASH magazine asks its readers weigh in on which story they like best. (Of course it’s mine. Do you even need to read the others?) These are 500-word stories. You will not be reading my magnum opus here. It’s quick; it’s painless.

Your vote means I have a chance of winning! That’s kinda fun, right? When I become a famous authoress, you can say, “I supported Rilla in her first short story contest. Yeah, I knew talent when I saw it, even back then.”

You’ll like my story! Read and vote on it here.

In case you missed the link, you can vote for my story here.

If you want me to quit begging, vote here: http://mashstories.com/shortlist/saras-whistle-rilla-zerbert/.

Clash of Priorities

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I’m not a writer. I only play one on my blog. How’s that? Well, really, who has time to write and play Clash of Clans?

By Kolele22 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Seriously? Rilla plays Clash of Clans? Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t even like video games.

It all started a couple of months ago, when my son, Magne*, said, “I wish you’d play Clash of Clans with me, Mom.”

I thought, “Aw. He wants me to play a video game with him.” Yeah, I thought I would be playing with him. Silly me.

So, here I am, sitting between my husband and son on the couch, saying, “I think I can get three stars on eight, but seven is iffy. If you give me hog riders, I can get at least one star on seven.”

“What if I give you a dragon?” Realm asks.

“Hey, give me a dragon! I need it to take down five!” Magne tells him.

We have pow-wows going into a clan war. When we’re neck and neck with the enemy clan, I get serious.

“Mom, it’s okay. It’s just a game,” my son reminds me.

“I know, I know,” I say, but I sneak out of the room to text a friend of mine whose son is in our clan.

“Can you tell Battlegade we need him to attack?”

She has no idea what I’m talking about. She thinks I’m asking if her son can come over to actually play. Who ever heard of that?

On the way home from our vacation, we had two hours to go before our clan war ended.

“Okay, they’ve got two players who each have one battle left,” I say, looking over our opponent clan’s scores. “They could still get more stars and win if we don’t get more players to participate.”

So, I look up a friend through Facebook. I message her, “Can your son, who’s in our clan, can get on and attack number six?” Then I write, ‘See you at church services tomorrow!”

She writes back, “Now or tomorrow?”

I tried to explain myself, but there is no explanation for the social disaster I’ve become.

I have no shame.

I dream of millions in my gold storage. That way I can upgrade my town hall. I’m so close to a dark elixir barracks that I can almost smell it. And it probably stinks.

*Pronounced “mane.”

Rilla Scriptzilla

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“Bing Crosby Gary Crosby 1951″ by CBS (eBay item photo front publicity release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the past two years, I’ve become more acquainted with scriptwriting. This is odd because I’ve never though of myself as a scriptwriter. Scriptwriting requires me to utilize crisp segues to get to the point, which I think I have a knack for. It also challenges me to write out my vision of what is happening. I don’t get to practice this type of descriptive writing enough—oh, I write action, but not action this mapped out. So, tackling the tricks of the script is a fun exercise for me.

But there is another aspect to writing a script that I can’t get used to: the actors. These are people who don’t want to do things the way the script is written. Ever. I go from scriptwriter to patcher-upper, working to bring the actor-revised script back around to its point, the punchline of the joke or the principle message.

I’d prefer to write the script, turn it in, and watch the result without having any part in the massacre that takes place in the middle. I’d rather view the aftermath, saying, “Wow, nothing I wrote was used except that joke in Scene Two. And it wasn’t funny because it was set up all wrong.” Then I might cringe while my name rolled through the credits and be done with it.

“Stumme Coronation of Mary jpg” by Creator:Absolon Stumme (imgc.artprintimages.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You see, scripts are a temptation to the control-prone writer, which I happen to be. When a writer works out the specifics of every movement and word of an actor, it can have one waxing a tad dictatorial. I want complete control. There, I said it! I want everything to go exactly as I see it in my mind. Well, sometimes I let things go when I see it played out and realize it doesn’t work as smoothly as it did in my head. I’m okay with changing that. You know me, I’m generous that way.

When I was young, my cousins and I would put on skits at family gatherings. I was in charge of these skits. Every year my cousins would revolt against my direction. Oh, all right, my tyranny. I shouted. I threatened. I hovered. It’s true.

Every year I became more and more convinced that I was not going to do another skit the next year. I tried letting a cousin direct it one year, saying, “You do the skit. No, do it this way.”

Obviously, that didn’t work.

I tried, “Oh, you guys should definitely do a skit! I think I’ll watch this year.”

That came off like I was sulking or something. I wasn’t. I just knew I’d take over and be hated for the rest of that visit. I could never seem to help myself.

Then came the skit-less years. No one understood why I didn’t head up those fun skits anymore. One cousin in particular, who’d been captain of the skit mutiny every year, came to me and asked, “Why don’t you put together our skits anymore? I miss it.”

I laughed good-naturedly and said, “Because you were always mad at me for being so bossy.”

She crinkled her nose and smiled.

“And I am bossy,” I admitted. “I wish I weren’t, but it just comes over me.”

I don’t mean to be bossy. I really don’t. To be honest, becoming a mother confused me a great deal because, suddenly, I was completely within my rights to take charge. It was necessary. Someone needed to direct and instruct those crazy kids. Could that somebody actually be me? Yes! I was perfect for the part! And I have gotten, far and away, my fill of being in charge as a mom.

So, all that to say, I need to learn to loosen my choleric grip as a scriptwriter. And I can do it. I can let go. Just don’t overhaul the whole script on me, okay?

What I Knead

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I beg you not to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: I make my own bread.

I know, I know! I’m one of those people. I probably have my own wheat fields and store my scythe next to the 200-year-old quilting loom, which I’ve used to make intricate quilt patterns since I was three.

Okay, it’s not that bad. I just make bread. After breaking three bread machines, I went back to basics. Yes, it takes a big chunk out of my day, so I make about eight loaves at a time. This lasts us almost three weeks…if I don’t give any away. But I like to give it away.

Yum!

I’m soy intolerant. It’s tough to find store-bought bread that isn’t made with soy products—the flour, the oil, the lecithin. Mainly, the soybean oil. That one really messes with me.

I could buy some specialty breads, but they cost at least twice as much. Homemade bread is equivalent to the price of the regular, store-bought varieties. That cost includes using butter, milk, honey, wheat germ, and sea salt. So, it’s healthier, heartier, and it tastes incredible.

It’s also a perk that my children think store-bought bread is a treat. Whoo hoo! We get Nature’s Own and Skippy today? Suddenly, I’m the greatest mom ever.

Punch that dough into shape!

Punch that dough into shape!

My sister came over to learn how to make bread. When it came time to knead it, I asked, “Wanna try?”

She worked the dough for a while. “Is this good?” she asked, showing me her progress.

“It needs to be more elastic. Punch and roll it.” I showed her what I meant. “Remember the Tae-Bo fast punch? That’s a good one.” I demonstrated.

She started laughing. “So this is why you like making bread,” she said as I socked the dough with a right uppercut.

“Totally.”

Here’s my bread recipe presently. It changes. (Currently, I’m experimenting with yeast substitutes, since that’s the most expensive ingredient.) Feel free to substitute bread flour, since the bromate makes the bread less likely to fall apart. Using all-purpose flour means having to work the dough more to get a firmer loaf.

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

2 cups scalded milk
½ cup honey
5 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. salt
2 pkg. (1 ½ Tbsp.) active dry yeast
2 cups cold water
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all-purpose flour

Mix melted butter, honey, and salt, pouring in scalded milk. Add the cold water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Add wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; let rise until doubled in bulk (1 ½ hours). Punch down; let rise again until doubled (1 hour). Shape into 4 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours).

Bake at 375, keeping low in oven for 25-30 minutes for freezing or 35 minutes, or until golden brown, for serving.

One of these days I hope to get my own grain mill. Electric. No, I don’t intend to grind wheat by hand. Really.

Home. Drive.

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I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.

Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

Of Bugs, Birds, and Beauty

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It’s firefly season. My girls go out at night to collect as many as they can. The glass jar with holes in the lid swarms with them. They flicker in the jar, their vibrant, yellow-green glow like fire in the glass. Then it’s time to let them go.

But they don’t want to let them go.

Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Another little girl tries pick up a firefly lying on the grass. She pinches it between her fingers. “I do this all the time,” she says. “I know how.” The poor little bug can’t fly anymore because she’s handled it so many times.

At the zoo there is an exhibit for the parakeets, those gorgeous, little tropical birds. Their feathers are bright and shimmer in the sunlight: yellow, orange, red, blue, and green. My girls and I feed them with seeds stuck to Popsicle sticks. The birds land right on the stick, or, if you hold really still, they’ll perch on your hand!

I watch as the little kids squirm to stay still, waiting patiently for the parakeets to land on their Popsicle sticks. The brilliantly-feathered birds flock to the seeds, flapping around our heads and shoulders. My daughter beams when they land on her hand. She doesn’t say a word, just basks in the novelty of the flighty little creatures settling on her like she’s a familiar friend.

She loves them. She can’t get enough of them. I mean, she really can’t get enough of them! She reaches out and seizes one of the birds in her fist. I gasp, horrified! She’s squeezing it in her palm to hold it down so it won’t escape! Is my daughter Elmyra?

I’m sure the bird will be scared and squawk. It isn’t; it doesn’t. It slips out of her grip, flies away, and swoops back down for more seeds. Next to me, another kid is trying the same tactic—the pounce and pin, I call it.

I just want to cry out, “Stop it! You’ll hurt it! Isn’t it enough that it comes into your hand? Why do you have to trap it? Contain it? Possess it?”

I feel this way about anything beautiful. All the creatures and scenes that God made fill me with awe. The idea of beauty itself—describing exactly why something is beautiful—isn’t really capturable. Nor can you remove the instinct of acknowledging beauty. There are some beauties that will always be; there are some beauties that we are conditioned by society to consider beautiful. Take the latest look in eye makeup, for example. I would never have imagined the exaggerated eye art of cinema’s Cleopatra and Cat Woman as something to imitate and go out in public wearing in 2014. But there you have it.

Here’s the thing, and we women know this: Beauty isn’t something you can trap, contain, or possess by force. It’s fleeting. It slips from our grasp again and again. No matter how some may try to redefine it, market it, and sell it, their promises are empty. We do not have it. Not essentially. Not here in this life.

Beauty is God’s. He is the Giver of every good thing. He created beauty. He created our love for it. He created our desire to have it, to want it so badly that we want to pounce, pin, and possess it forever. He knows what is truly, essentially beautiful, and He gives us all the guidelines to embrace this perfect beauty. Not a pounce and pin-type of possession but a thrilling gift we find in Him when He resides in us. It’s a glimpse of what eternity will be like. I believe it is there that we will get our fill of beauty and be satisfied.

Disclaimer: No parakeets or fireflies were interested in the writing of this post.

Wooed by Smoke and Flame

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I’m married to the grill master of my dreams. We’re having beautiful weather here, and Realm has been grilling out once a week. He’s a charcoal grill connoisseur. We tried gas once. The flavor’s not the same.

By Brian Chu (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite cologne for Realm is eau de Grill. I can smell it in his hair when he walks in from the porch. Some people sniff markers and glue; I tiptoe up to my husband and breathe in smoky bliss. He thinks it’s funny. I think it’s delicious.

He cooks steak to perfection…and herbed salmon, honey Italian marinated chicken, shish kabob—Oh! Shish kabob with garlic and onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes is my favorite! I eat up all the cloves of garlic and onions before they reach the table. (My scent is eau de Halitosis.)

Of course, there’s the occasional burnt fare. Realm hates when this happens. I lurve it! The only thing better than grilled meat is charred grilled meat! I’m not saying I want ash here, but a burger that’s blackened is so yummy.

Realm and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary. Our marriage is an adult now. I’m very much in love with him. I think one secret to a happy 18 years is having a husband who knows how to woo his wife long after the “I do.” I like flowers. I like chocolate. But there is nothing like, “Honey, I cooked dinner.”

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