E-bikes and Me-Powered Bikes

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I have recently discovered that I am a biker chick. No, I am not revving the engine of a motorcycle and dressed in black leather. My one attempt to ride a motorcycle ended with a broken mirror and me miraculously not hurt…but that is another story.

I prefer a regular old bicycle — fitted out with a motor. In short, an e-bike.

After a visit from my uncle where he talked about the long bike rides he took with my aunt, I was looking forward to trying out an electric bike on my next visit to Oregon. I saddled up on my electric bike and prepared to see the world from the back of a bicycle.

Of course, me being me, it wasn’t quite that easy.

Although I hadn’t ridden in years, riding a bike is like, you know, riding a bike. The addition of a motor just made it nicer. When faced with a hill, all you do is turn your wrist and the motor takes over. Okay, so I also might have made use of the motor when there were no hills in sight. My aunt led the way and my uncle remained in the back to help any stragglers. Spoiler alert: I was a straggler. My first time out, I turned the motor up to full throttle as everyone else in the group pulled away. bicycle-1300317

As they disappeared from sight, my uncle checked my bike and realized that I had the motor on the lowest setting. Even with it maxed out, I could barely approach a decent speed. After he told me how to fix it, I took off with the wind blowing in my hair. We rode through the countryside and neighborhoods.

Nothing could stop me now.

Until I started to hear a flapping sound. And my bike felt a little sluggish.

Yes, I had a flat tire. My uncle drove home to get a pickup.

The next day, we headed out again with the tires on my borrowed bike once more in working order. We raced along the route with my aunt in the lead. As we passed the place where my tire had given out the day before, crowds threw rose petals and trumpets blew — or maybe my fellow riders jokingly congratulated me.

Not too long after we passed the point of victory, my bike seemed to grow a lot heavier on the way up a hill. In fact, it felt like my motor had given out entirely. I checked my speedometer and realized that the reason my motor felt like it had died was because it had died.

For the remaining distance home, I was on me-power and me-power only. The wind still blew through my hair, but not quite as strongly as it had before.

Our visit ended before we could go for another bike ride. I think this is probably a good thing, since bad things come in three, and I kind of wondered what would be next.

Flat tires and tired motors aside, I realized I love biking. I have now started riding back home. There’s a lot to be said for biking. One can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. One can exercise. One can breathe fresh air.emotions-2713109_640

And if one is me, one can find a lot of excuses to laugh.

“A joyful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

 

 

Exhaustion and Dining Companions

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Moving is exhausting. Writing conferences are exhausting. Vacations are exhausting. So, of course, it made sense to pack them as close together as pickles in a jar. In the last few weeks, I moved from the house I lived in for ten years, prepared and left for a writing conference in San Antonio, and decided to drop in on friends and family in Oregon–it was only a few thousand miles out of the way–before heading back to Indiana.

As you can imagine, finding time to write has been about as easy as finding a place cold enough to wear a parka in San Antonio. This trip was my first visit to the city, and I struggled to keep my body from morphing from solid to liquid form in the overwhelming heat.

I wonder how I ever survived living in Brazil.

I’ll be sharing more about my conference experiences in my newsletter (to sign up click here), but first I would like to tell you about some of my dining companions.

We were walking along the San Antonio Riverwalk when we stopped for lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Our dining companions greeted us before the waitress.

Mrs. D was quite the hungry dining companion. At first, she was polite in her requests that we share our meals. Gradually, she grew more insistent as she did her best to clarify that she would really like a bit of sustenance. Her method of accomplishing this was to tug at our pants. When we ignored her, she tugged harder and still harder as she struggled to make us understand. She vocalized her needs, but we–cruel people that we are–ignored her. Her family and friends hovered nearby.

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Mrs. D

Then there were the rest of the audience who were silent but gawked at us with open mouths. They each wore bright red lipstick to outline their gaping mouths, which they opened and closed to demonstrate where the food would go should we choose to share.

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The Lipsticked Audience

We finally rewarded their persistence by crushing leftover chips and throwing them into the water. Lest that sound rude, I should probably clarify that the dining companions were ducks and tilapia.

Eating on the sidewalk café may have been hot–and left me with a sunburn on only one side of my neck–but I always will remember my dining companions.

Even if they were a bit less than human.

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They were finally rewarded for their patience.

Have you ever had a unique dining companion?

 

Litbits, Bitbits, and More Inspired Bits

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I recently received a Fitbit. Although I am still getting used to all the functions, I find it fun to have a personal trainer on my wrist who yells at me, encourages me, and celebrates my fitness victories with black and white fireworks.

A Fitbit basically takes me back to my childhood where taking three steps or finishing lunch without creating an art installment entitled “A Study of Spaghetti On the Wall” garnered me the praise of both my parents.

My Fitbit is equally as encouraging — until it isn’t. Yesterday, I was in the car for an hour and a half trip. My Fitbit popped up a reminder toward the end of the trip that I only had 250 of 250 steps to reach my hour goal. Sadly, I opted not to stop my car at the side of the road and march around it like the children of Israel marched around Jericho.target-2045924_640

Having a Fitbit has also inspired me to think up other kinds of “Bits.” Why not a “Litbit” that encourages me to read and pops up messages about only having 40 words left to reach a goal? Honestly, though, I would like to know how many words I read a day — whether the ones I’m writing, reading for enjoyment, or just glancing at on a cereal box.

Or what about a “Bitbit.” Primarily because Bitbit is fun to say, but this bit tracker would read the size of hole you needed for a screw — and then help you find the drill bit like a metal detector helps you find gold.knitting-1430153_640

Then there could be the “Knitbit.” I don’t knit, but this tracker would tell one how many stitches they create. Another setting would celebrate inches of knitwear created. Unfortunately, people who crochet or embroider are out since “Crochetbit” and “Embroiderbit” simply don’t have the same pizzazz as “Knitbit.”

Nor does the “Christ-Likebit,” but think about how the world might change if we had a tjesus-3135229_640racker on our wrist capable of encouraging us to say that extra prayer, extend love to someone who needs it, or warn us that the anger roiling in our stomachs isn’t exactly Christ-like.

I would write more, but my Fitbit needs sustenance.

What is a unique “Bit” you can think of?

 

Should books have warning labels?

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I’ve never understood why a bag of peanuts needs a warning label to inform people that the bag may contain nuts. I rather hope that the bag of nuts I bought actually contains nuts. Then again, I also question a box of lemon cookies that is excited enough to emblazon across the front that it is flavored with REAL lemons.

Uh, as opposed to what?caution-943376_640

What is equally surprising are all the places where warning labels do not appear. Such as songs. Why isn’t there a disclaimer at the beginning of a song that it is likely to get stuck in your head and stay there on repeat until one is ready binge eat a carton of mysteriously-flavored chocolate cookies that don’t contain chocolate?

croissant-690646_640And what about books? Have you ever seen a caution that a book is likely to cause one-more-chapter syndrome and one will stay up way past their bedtime –much to the detriment of their ability to function the next day.

Shouldn’t coffee have a warning label that it is likely to keep one awake if consumed too close to bedtime — unless one is drinking it to stay awake and finish the aforementioned book? What about chocolate and the temptation to eat more than one square?

These seem to be rational warnings that need to be posted everywhere. Instead, we are gifted with cautions about hair straighteners not being intended for use in one’s eyes. Hair dryers warn against using them while you are asleep. Letter openers suggest the use of safety goggles during operation.

Because, apparently, every office should come equipped with safety goggles.

Why don’t we have warnings that babies will cause an excess of awws and so cutes. Salty wind blowing off the ocean might tangle your hair. Stars might cause one to wonder at their own significance and God’s greatness. tree-736885_640

So while I might wonder why a chainsaw needs a warning to not hold the wrong end, I am grateful that we have a God who both warns us of our need for Him and inspires us with awe.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”    Romans 1:20

 

Hairy Experiences

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In my family, if something gross, disgusting, or disturbing must happen then it will happen to me. This is as certain as Murphy’s Law and gravity.

I have learned to accept this as my fate and even look upon the odd occurrences that make up my life as gifts in the form of ideas for my writing. After all, if I have to have these experiences than so do my characters.

But the hair… I wouldn’t even subject my villains to that level of trauma.

My first hair occurrence took place in Brazil. We were headed to the airport to go home on furlough and were on an eight-hour bus trip. We pulled up outside a truck stop restaurant and headed in along with everyone else for lunch. spaghetti-863304_640

It was a by-the-weight buffet (very common in Brazil) and after hours on a bus, and the stress of getting things ready for furlough, I didn’t feel much like eating. The only thing that looked good at all was the spaghetti. So I mainly put spaghetti on my plate and headed for the table to eat.

And that’s when I noticed that one of the strands of spaghetti was not like the others. It was dark and thin. Almost like hair…

Thus ended my lunch.

The second hair occurrence took place in Wales. I had traveled over to see my sister and we had decided to stop for ice cream. We ordered a waffle cone and I chose honeycomb as my flavor. It was delicious. Cool, creamy and studded with crunchy caramel.

ice-879552_640And then in my ice cream I noticed some caramel that wasn’t like the other caramel. In fact, it was dark and thin. Almost like hair…

 

And there went my ice cream.

My third hair occurrence took place in Shanghai.

After days of noodles and very few vegetables, I longed for something healthy. My aunt and I decided to go to Pizza Hut where we could get a salad and pizza. I looked forward to that salad all day long.

I looked down at it with anticipation as the waiter set it on the table in front of me. After asking a blessing I dug in. Two bites later I noticed something. Something thin and dark and

Well, you know the chorus by now.salad-374173_640

I probably should just write a book and call it, “Around the World with Hair in My Food.”

Then again, I really want to avoid any more, shall we say, research.

Have you ever found a “special” additive in your food?

The Mystery of Comfort Food

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The funny thing about comfort food is that it will always be as unique as the person chowing down. Regional, cultural, and familial traditions all have an effect on one’s taste buds. Typically, comfort food involves a hefty amount of calories.

I envy the soul whose comfort food is carrots and kale.

While visiting my sister, I started watching a youtuber who traveled the world and ate food. Sure, he visited monuments and tourist attractions, but mostly, he ate.

dragon-36748_640After growing up all over the world, his comfort food encompassed seafood, raw meats, and enough spice to win a contest with a fire-breathing dragon. After literally turning away from the screen rather than watch him stuff some raw fish into his mouth, I contemplated the individuality of comfort food — and how someone ate eight meals a day and still remained thin.

One of my comfort foods is, of all things, ketchup. I once read that ketchup is the condiment of MKs (missionary kids). While living in Brazil — a country that didn’t stock BBQ sauce, dressings, salsa, or taco sauce — ketchup became a versatile condiment. Add a few drops of picante sauce, voila taco sauce. (And, yes, I sometimes still have ketchup on my burritos.) Faced with manioc fries, nothing helped the dryness like a dose of ketchup. Weird flavors were easily masked by its familiar flavor. ketchup-29755_640

My mom’s chicken and dumplings also tops the list of comfort foods. As the child of pizza restaurants owners I was literally weaned on pizza, and it too makes the list of comfort foods. Parents that grew up in California meant many meals of Mexican food. I suppose our forefathers probably weren’t referring to a literal melting pot when they used the term to describe America, but they might as well have been.

Moving to Brazil added other favorites to my list of comfort foods. Passionfruit mousse will always be a favorite. Brazilian chicken stroganoff. Recently though, I have been all about craving pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread). Cheesy, gluten-free, and delicious, I feel no need to reach for the ketchup bottle.

My sisters’ comfort foods have also involved some melting in of other tastes. The sister who married a Brit now makes curries as a comfort food. Another sister with a husband of Ukrainian descent craves pierogi and wheat salad. Sugar cream pie and BBQ ribs grace another sister’s table.

What’s your comfort food? Feel free to include a recipe. Here’s the pao de queijo recipe we use.

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

5 1/2 cups grated cheese (traditionally a soft fresh cheese, we now use cheddar, mozzarella, or a mixture of multiple kinds)

3 1/2 cups tapioca flour (available in most gluten free sections at supermarkets)

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

4 Tablespoons Oil

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Eggs

Milk (Aged cheeses require the addition of milk to form the dough)

Mix all ingredients. Add enough milk to make a dough about the consistency of cookie dough and capable of being formed into balls. Roll into balls and place on greased pan. Bake at 400 until they are a little brown on the bottoms (about ten to twelve minutes). Serve warm.

 

Fathers with Daughters

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When a man has daughters, the signs can be obvious.

  1. If you see a grown man carrying a tiny pink purse, he’s probably a daddy.
  2. If a man can sing all the words of a Disney princess song, he might have little girls at home.
  3.  If a man who doesn’t like pets has owned cats, dogs, fish, and turtles, it’s a safe bet there might be a little girl who blinked her eyes at Daddy. My two-year-old niece might not have the largest vocabulary yet, but she has managed to say, “Daddy, puppy. Puppy, please.”dress-163552_640
  4. If a man has small plastic barrettes clamped into his inch-long hair, they were probably placed there by tiny girl fingers.
  5.  If a man is willing to change the channel from a football game to a Hallmark movie, there might be a girl sitting on the sofa next to him.

My father long ago accepted that he was outnumbered in the family. With a wife and four daughters, we sometimes chose male animals simply so he had a little support. Not that he ever minded a house that was far more likely to be filled with dress-up clothes than toy cars and conversations more often centered on Jane Austen than sports.

And we have been beneficial to him. The other day he was taking a quiz and correctly chose Jane Austen as the answer. He probably owes that entirely to being the father of all daughters. He also could probably identify all of the Disney princesses and some of Strawberry Shortcake’s friends.

basketball-147794_640Of course, we girls have also benefited from being from an all-girl family. We can plumb, wire, mud, build, and use a machete. He taught us theology and the proper way to throw a ball. Some of us have even followed sports — for a time.

In the past several years, the numbers in my family have begun to balance out. Three sons-in-law and four grandsons have provided my dad with male company. Yet with four daughters and eight granddaughters, my dad will probably never know what it is like to outnumber the girls in the family.

And I know he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Father’s Day!

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”  Psalms 103:13

What are some other ways one can identify the fathers of little girls?

 

 

 

 

Novels, Trust, and ER visits

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For some, trust is as easy as breathing. For others, trust is like trying to suck air into their lungs while in the middle of an asthma attack.

I am the second one.

I know the verses on trust. I can sing “Trust and Obey” in two languages. I trust God.

religious-316272_640I also have a very bad habit of offering God advice on what would or would not be a good thing to happen. Although Jesus ended His sentence on God’s will being done with a period, I preferred another form of punctuation there.

“Your will be done — but don’t let it be this.” Of course, commas also made their appearance. “Your will be done, and please let Your will be this.”

I just couldn’t bring myself to insert a period there. That tiny dot of punctuation that denotes a full stop. No extras. No advice.

I finally reached the point where I knew God was telling me to trust. From the children’s lessons I’ve been writing with their lessons on fear and courage, to the words of “Trust and Obey” running through my head. The final straw was True to You by Becky Wade. Her heroine struggled to trust God, and I could see myself in that character. As if that book had been written just so God could point to it and say, “Do you see yourself in this character?” I did. So I prayed, and I told God I trusted Him. I prayed for His will in my life. Period. Full stop.

Less than twenty-four hours later, an asthma doctor was telling me I needed to rush to the ER with the implication being that I was having a heart attack. This is not the typical ending when a character in a novel chooses to trust. Oddly, the thought of ending up in the ER had fluttered through my brain when I prayed for God’s will.heartbeat-163709_640

Doctors and medicine are my kryptonite. I am the girl who left first aid class to pass out in the hallway. A visit to the ER was not on my top ten thousand places I would like to be. I was terrified, but over and over, I heard the word, “Trust.”

Hours passed. Tests were done. Still, the word “trust” echoed through my mind. My worried mother wondered why her anti-medical daughter was laughing while hooked up to  heart monitor. Fortunately, I explained before she suggested I might need my head examined too.

Thankfully, my heart is fine, although I do have the side effect of “Trust and Obey” playing on loop as I worry about upcoming medical bills.

That’s okay though. I can always sing it in Portuguese if I get bored.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

Have you ever struggled to trust?