Monthly Archives: May 2014

Confessions of a Perpetual People Watcher


Today, I am posting my very first guest post, and I am happy to introduce Sheri Zeck to you. Sheri and I met several years ago at a writing conference, and we both continue along in our writing journeys. We now participate in an online critique group together. For those that have or have had young drivers, you will appreciate this story!

Hi. My name is Sheri and I’m a people watcher. There, I’ve said it. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I just can’t resist. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the mall, sitting in church or waiting my turn at the doctor’s office. I like to observe people. I notice their mannerisms. I wonder about their - sheri's post #2 - May 26, 14Last week I had yet another opportunity when my oldest daughter and I stopped by our local driver services facility. Now that’s a people-watcher’s paradise. One step inside and you’re “trapped” in a giant room full of strangers.

We stepped up to the counter. “My daughter needs a permit.”

“Take a number.”

Emily and I glanced at the paper … number 50.

Across the room, a lady’s voice yelled above the noise. “Number 38?”

Oh well, I thought. May as well make ourselves comfortable. I took a seat and checked out my surroundings.

Sitting nearby, a petite grandma adjusted her glasses and squinted at some paperwork. I pictured her driving, perched on a pile of pillows and straining to see over the wheel.

Standing in line, a bald guy stroked his long, braided beard. Interestingly, the stretchy rubber band he’d chosen for his beard looked much like the ones I find all over my house.

Across the room, a teenage boy flipped through a Rules of the Road handbook. Every now and then, he’d run his fingers through a mop of greasy hair and tug at the back of his jeans, which relentlessly slid down his backside.

A few seats over, a young boy with bright red sneakers sat by his mom and kicked his legs back-and-forth. When he grew tired of that, he turned around, propped his chin on the back of his chair and stared at Mr. Braided Beard.

And then there was the young lady sitting next to me. I loved watching her. In fact, I’ve been watching her for years.

At one time I watched her stretch little arms out to me when she took her first steps. I watched her ride a bike for the first time. I watched her lug a Princess backpack up the wide steps of a big, yellow bus. I watched her get teeth, and then later, pull those teeth. I watched her get braces, and then later, get rid of those braces.

I’ve watched this girl go through fifteen years worth of milestones. And today was another.

“Number 50?”

We stood to our feet and stepped up to the counter. As Emily finished her eye test, I noticed a box of pens on the counter. I took three.

“Mom!” She looked at me like I’d committed a crime.

“What? They’re free – and I need a couple extra for my purse.

“This is a government building,” she said with a smile. “There are cameras everywhere. You’re probably being watched.”

Probably, I thought. Seems like wherever you go these days, somebody’s always watching.

Sheri Zeck head & shoulders 2013

 Sheri Zeck enjoys writing creative nonfiction stories that encourage, inspire and entertain others. Her freelance works include stories for Guideposts, Angels on Earth, Farm and Ranch Living, and Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sheri lives in Illinois and writes about her faith, family and adventures of raising three girls on her blog, Writing from the Heart. Visit her website at:



The Joy in the Story


Who remembers the features in which CBS news correspondent Steve Hartman interviewed ordinary people in towns and cities across the country? He threw a dart at a map, selected a random telephone number from the local directory, and interviewed a member of that household.

There were 123 installments of “Everybody Has a Story” completed during its seven-year run, and they ended approximately ten years ago. Presumably, Mr. Hartman’s goal was to show just how very interesting even ordinary folks are. He also wanted to show the “real America” by talking to people from all parts of the country.

I wonder if we take the time to hear and comprehend the stories of everyday people in our local communities and the larger world. I think not. We are all so fascinated with celebrity; we know way more than we should about the stars of screen, radio, stage, and reality TV. And, we communicate at a feverish pace with countless “friends” daily, but do we really know their stories?

I shared with you last week that my mother is a fine example of a person who exercises moderation. Today, I am sharing that my father was really good at learning (and, remembering) the stories of others.Scan_Pic0011

Dad was not a natural extrovert. My father worked hard at being outgoing and engaging. He had great interpersonal skills. He made others feel he was interested, and he was. He asked questions of others, whether it be about their work or their family or their history.

One time we visited a nightclub in Soulard, which is a neighborhood in St. Louis. This was some years back, and a guitarist named Billy Peek was performing at The Great Grizzly Bear. Billy, who still performs locally, has an illustrious musical background, having played lead guitar for Rod Stewart for over five years. When he took a break, my dad approached him in that way he had and learned a whole lot about the industry from Mr. Peek.

In preparation for last week’s posts, I spoke to local business people. I learned one business (All About Home) is owned by Chicago-to-Troy, Missouri transplants, Lori Akins and Greg Schmidt. Their business is housed in a historic building of Troy, which the Odd Fellows built in the late 1800’s. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a global altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization; they historically cared for orphans and the needy. The space is now used for weddings, meetings, photo shoots, and more. So interesting!

I may have to consider writing my own collection of “stories,” because it is fun to learn about and from others. Would this be something you’d enjoy reading? Share your thoughts with me!

Links to explore:

Enjoy a Thoughtful Thursday!


Travel Buds and Buzz


We’re now in countdown mode. If not for nasty weather, my children would be starting summer vacation at the end of today. But, the snow, ice and cold we had will keep them in school for a couple more weeks. While our summer will be shorter, there are still many plans for my family over the next few months. I am sure it is likewise in your home.

First on the schedule will be a full-family trip to Wisconsin Dells. My husband and two kids will join my mom and step-dad, my sister and brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew for this road trip north. This won’t be our first vacation as a large group, and I know many families now travel in mass. People also enjoy book club trips, hunting trips, and group adventures of all nature.

It’s tons of fun to get out of town with friends and family, but it is important to be cognizant of travel preferences and personalities when you do. I believe there are four types of travelers, and I encourage you to consider what types you are hitting the road with; it may be all of them.

1) Learners – They like museums and architecture, history and culture. They keep a full itinerary while on vacation. Learners do not wish to waste an opportunity to gain knowledge about a new place. They may even record the trivia they acquire along the way. (Is that weird?)

2) Adventures – These are the bungee-jumping, ski-diving, Go-Kart racing folks. They like a hard day of play, along with a healthy adrenaline rush. Whether at the beach or the mountains or an amusement park, they strive for adventure and a break from the ordinary routine. (That’s weird! Are you trying to kill yourself?)

3) Admirers – Soaking up the natural beauty of a destination is what these travelers enjoy. They feel energized by landscapes and vistas unfamiliar to their own. Admirers enjoy hiking and camping, boating and fishing. They seek inspiration during their respites from the daily grind. (That was a fun morning, not let’s get to it.)

4) Relaxers – They just want to chill. Relaxers have no agenda other than to do exactly what sounds good in the moment. Lounging on a beach with a cold drink, taking long naps, savoring good meals, reading – that’s their style. Vacation means escaping real-world stressors and plans. (Rigor is setting in, here!)

In spite of my attempts at humor and my personal, completely unbiased comments above, I recognize that all of these are totally valid travel types. And, the thing about vacationing with others is that we have to respect everyone’s unique travel expectations and needs.

So, when you set off on those upcoming journeys, enjoy being with one another, but remember to be flexible and consider the wishes of all in the group.

Now, here’s a link to a similar piece I wrote at The Christian Pulse a few years ago. This devotion encourages us to incorporate the above travel perspectives into our spiritual life:005

Today’s give-a-way includes goodies for the kids and their summer fun. Whether you are traveling across country or having a staycation at or close to home, you will find lots of laughs with this assortment from The Mercantile Outlet. Gary and Marge Cockrum’s store seems like a trip back in time with a variety of items priced for families. Check them out at:

Enjoy the weekend!




What makes you happy?

Pharrell Williams has gotten us all singing and dancing about happiness. “Happy,” from the soundtrack of Despicable Me 2 was nominated for Best Original Song at the 86th Academy Awards earlier this year.

One of our local school principals made a cool video to the tune of “Happy” to encourage community support for a tax initiative to relieve crowding at the district’s middle school (currently, the largest one in the state of Missouri). Check it out at:

Phil Robertson writes about happiness in his book, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander. While I’ve not read Mr. Robertson’s book, I am a fan, and, with a title like that, I’d bet it’s worth a look.

We talk about “happy pills” and “happy places.” Happiness is important to us humans. It varies somewhat for everyone, but happiness usually involves fun, friends and family, peaceful days, and stress-free sleep. Happiness is associated with satisfied tummies and sufficiently full bank accounts. It may include pleasing music and breathtaking landscapes. A good book, a hot bath, a day at the beach, a piece of fine chocolate, a job well-done, a day of yard work – those are just some of the ways we define happinesblog - haPPY2s.

And, as I write I remember a little purple-and-blue-trimmed book from my childhood. I still have the 1971 Peanuts paperback, Happiness is a Sad Song by Charles M. Schulz. In recent years, they have published “warm blanket” and “warm puppy” versions as well.

While there are lots of ways we can feel momentary happiness or glee, there may not be as many ways to feel the contentment and peace that comes even in times that aren’t necessarily “happy.” We aren’t able to feel jubilant and joyful at all times, because life is just hard a lot of the time. However, we may be able to rest in trials and difficulties.

A popular benediction reminds us that lasting peace, peace beyond what we can comprehend comes through Him.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:7 KJV)

I love “Happy,” but here’s another one I like…

“It is Well with My Soul” is a hymn written by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. Here are two lovely versions of this great song. One is more traditional, and the other leans contemporary. Choose whichever one makes you… happy!

Today’s give-a-way is sure to make you happy! My Christian sister, (to clarity for my contemporaries, this is not to be confused with Night Ranger’s song, “Sister Christian”) Joann Brown, makes some awesome natural soaps, scrubs, fragrances, and more. Plus I love her company name: Absolved SoapsandMore. Her goodies smell great and come in super cute packaging. Check out all of Joann’s products:

Enjoy a Thoughtful Thursday!



Too Much of a Good Thing


Some folks have the concept and practice of moderation mastered. My mother does. Me, not so much. I tend to bounce between extremes in some areas of my life, and I have to guard against my natural all-or-nothing mentality. If my house is freshly cleaned, I am militant about keeping it so. If it has gotten messy, I may go the other way and just let it go for a while. Crazy, I know.

After a recent grocery shopping trip, I was eager to try a new product I’d come across. I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast, and the jar of maple almond nut butter was calling my name. I broke it open and found to my delight that it was yummy. It was slightly sweet with that gritty texture that reminds me of a peanut butter cup. I had a couple of spoonfuls, checked out the calorie content and serving size, and returned it to the frig.

After putting more groceries away, I considered the nutritional value of nuts. They’re full of protein and good fat. I had another bite or two.

It was about noon, and, since this could be considered both breakfast and lunch, I went for another mouthful. By this time I was feeling full. The nut butter had filled my belly, but now seemed slow to move beyond my throat.

I soon realized that, for the first time in my life, I was having an allergic reaction to nuts (almonds, specifically) or something in the nut butter. My throat seemed tight, and swallowing was difficult. I was able to breathe, but I prepared myself for the possibility that I may have to seek medical treatment. I waited, and it seemed to slowly get better. My throat opened a bit more and I swallowed easier, but my girlfriends noticed a distinct different in my voice that evening. (My husband did not!)

I haven’t investigated the problem with my doctor yet, but I’m avoiding nuts to be safe. I don’t know if this was a fluke or something I will deal with for the rest of my life. Perhaps, I would have had the same result if I had eaten only a bite. Or, maybe, I just overdid it on the nut butter.

Sometimes, we overdo on things in our lives. It’s easy to do. They may be fun, but unhealthy habits we have developed. Or, they may be positive things that become unhealthy when consumed or taken to excess. Those good-gone-bad things in life may be less sinister, and they may go unnoticed. But, they need our attention sometimes, too.

If we exercise and take care of our bodies, that’s a good thing. If we do that to the exclusion of other activities or out of vanity or pride, it is no longer positive. If we seek to serve our community, family, friends and church we please God. But, if in the process we grow resentful or frustrated, we have defeated our - Dena's Giveaway - May 14, 14

Moderation. It’s such an unassuming, unglamorous word, but it’s a good thing.

Now, to encourage the difficult practice of moderation, today’s drawing give-a-way is a 13-piece cookie bouquet by Dena Capps, of Cappy’s Cookies in Troy, MO. The specific design will be a surprise, but this is an example of her delicious and adorable work. If today’s winner is outside the delivery area, I will be mailing a $25 gift certificate to The Cheesecake Factory to him or her.

Have a Blessed Wednesday!



Home Styles and Talking Trials


What is your decorating style? A quick online search reveals a wide range of styles that exist in the home decorating world. There is Victorian, art deco, contemporary, country French, arts and crafts, southwestern, industrial, coastal, modern midcentury, Asian, Hollywood regency, traditional and more.

When I decided to redecorate my kitchen recently, I didn’t really have a name for what I wanted, but I had a picture in my head. Sometimes, the picture in your head is hard to communicate out of your mouth.

My kitchen had been completely painted – orange. The dated vinyl flooring, revealing every speck of dirt in its whitish pinpoint pattern, was taken up and replaced with neutral ceramic-looking tiles. And, we had replaced our country light fixture with a warm one that had a sort of Spanish feel, I thought. That’s where my work had ceased. The walls were bare. So, I called in help from my friend, “J.” We’ll call her “J” for this article.

J is a pretty good decorator. The book club members all agree. When I told her I wanted to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to look for kitchen décor, she was all in. First, though, she came to see where I stood and what we needed to be looking for.

She walked in and got busy assessing the walls, shapes and colors she would be working with. I showed her some towels and a decorative plate I wanted to utilize. And, her creative juices were flowing as a vision came into place for her… some metal work here, a piece of art there, a grouping, a new non-country foyer bench, different kitchen window blinds (we had just bought new blinds), some pottery.

J: “So, you’re kinda going for Arizona.”

H: “Yeah, I think that’s the idea (sounds about right).”

And, off to the resale shops we went.

Now, I am not snooty, but resale stores don’t work well for me. I just can’t see the potential. I lack that particular skill. However, once there, J found a lovely bowl for my table.

H: “That’s good. I could put some colored balls (orbs) in it.”

J: “No, honey. Not colored. Brown.”

I found another bowl, smaller and multi-colored, for a shelf and took it to J for her thoughts. She appeared befuddled.

J: “You can’t use this bowl with that other one.”

H: “Oh.”

J: “We’re not on the same page, here.”

H: “Okay, so think Mexican restaurant.”

While I am not bold in my own personal style, I like color in my home. My website background was chosen, because it makes me think of Guatemala (Mayan), where my girl was born.

J: “Ohhhh, I got it. Let’s put this other one back. I’m with you now.”

J, though I strongly suspect is not really down with the Mexican restaurant style of kitchen decorating, shifted gears and proceeded to help me search for the things that would work right for me. (The proper name may be “Hacienda” style. Then, again, that may be something altogether diffeBlog - Home Decor Gift - 5-13-14rent.)

Sometimes, we don’t communicate well, even with those who know us well. We may think others fully “get” what we’re saying, and yet the message is unclear. This may not be as critical in matters of home décor, but it sure is when we are talking about big issues.

When we are expressing and demonstrating our expectations to our children, we better be clear. When we talk to them about right and wrong, morality and Godliness, we must not be vague. And, when we seek to share our faith and the story of salvation with those who may not know, we need to be completely understood.

Today’s drawing prize (pictured here) was put together personally by All About Home owner, Lori Akins. Located on Main Street in Troy, MO, All About Home has a beautiful collection of home décor items. And, the building itself a lot of history. That may be the subject of a future post!

Reminder: Make a comment on today’s Bloom, Bond & Build post and/or choose to subscribe to my blog, and you will be entered up to two times for today’s drawing. Good Luck!

Keep Smiling!




Better Than Money


In Bible times, a “talent” was a unit of measurement that was approximately equal to 75 lbs., according to Tyndale’s Life Application Study Bible (NIV). We see the word “talent” used in reference to weight in Exodus 25:39 (NIV) as God gives instructions to Moses regarding the building of the tabernacle.

In the New Testament, specifically Matthew 25:14-30 (NIV), Jesus uses the word “talent” to mean a unit of money. Here He tells the Parable of the Loaned Money, and, referencing again my Life Application Study Bible, the modern-day equivalent of a talent is approximately $1,000 dollars.

In the parable, Jesus tells of a man who entrusted each of three servants with various sums of money while he was gone on a journey. The servants who were left five and three talents, respectively, worked hard and doubled his money; however, the one who was left one talent, buried it and earned nothing additional.

Jesus makes the point that this was a wasteful, lazy, and even evil misuse of the funds.

Shifting gears to modern-day America, we rarely think of talents as pertaining to weight or money. We recognize the word “talent” as synonymous with: “ability,” “aptitude,” “flair,” “bent” or “capacity.”

So, how does this become a “Monday Mom Message?”

Well, if our Heavenly Father thinks it is important for us to use our talents, then I think it is important for us moms to help our kids figure out what theirs are.

Some kids burst into the world with a ball in their hands, figuratively speaking. Others demonstrate musical or artistic gifts early on. However, for many of us (adults and children), our endowments are not so readily obvious. In those cases, it’s important to expose our children to lots of experiences and opportunities so they can discover what their God-given gifts are.

When I step into my son’s small bedroom, now crowded with items and artifacts from his childhood as well as the accumulated property of a 16-year-old, I am reminded of his many ventures over the years. Ivan took ice skating, guitar, and riding lessons. He’s been involved in drama and scouts. He’s played both baseball and soccer. Soccer was brutal. You know the feeling when your child really kinda stinks at something, and you’d like to stay quiet and unnoticed during the game? Come on, you know you do! When your child is sitting on a ball in play, because he’s not finished with snack… When your child is the only Ivan on any of the five fields, there is really no denying him.

I digress. The point is that we let him try lots of things. He has now settled on what he likes and does well, and that’s one of the most important lessons kids can learn as they grow up. It shouldn’t be about what we like or what we do well, but what unique gifts our children have been blessed with. The Lord doesn’t always grant equal amounts of talent to everyone, but we are assured that we all have them. And, we are assured, too, that we ought to use them!Blog - AHE Gift - 5-12-14

Now, for today’s drawing! As a reminder, your name will be entered into the drawing if you comment on this post at prior to 12:00 midnight tonight (CT), and you will also receive an entry if you choose to subscribe to my blog. If you subscribe today, you will be entered for what’s below, as well as for each of the four remaining drawings this week.

Connie Maher and Aim High Elite have been in Troy, MO for over 30 years. The well-known dance, cheer and gymnastics studio has served many families during that time, and my daughter is one of the lucky students who attends AHE now. The staff and coaches are wonderful, and I excited to say that today’s give-a-way is a voucher for one of AHE’s one-day summer camps. It is a $48 value. Learn more about Aim High Elite at:

If the drawing winner resides outside a 45-mile radius to AHE, there will be an alternative gift. This will be a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. What can’t we learn in a bookstore, right?!

Happy Monday!



Let’s Connect!


It seems like a time for celebration.

Beginning tomorrow (Monday), I am going to be posting on every day, and, in addition, I will be giving away some cool gifts for you, your family, and your home. I hope you will join me for discussion and fun… and a chance to win!

So what’s the occasion? 

First, I’d like to encourage you to check out my blog. It’s my hope that has something to educate or entertain everyone, and I’d love to have you be a part of it. I know your time is limited, and there are MANY competing sources of information in our world. So, it is an honor for me when someone chooses to spend their valuable time at my site. I’d like to give you an extra incentive to take a look and consider subscribing.

Secondly, why must Mother’s Day last only for a single Sunday in May? Why not keep the love flowing a bit longer? The drawings this week will include the decadent and the decorblog - contest kick-off - 5-11-14ative; the prizes are both personal and parent-related. And, I hope to introduce you to a few local entrepreneurs you may not yet know about.

Finally, I am just SO happy that spring has arrived. Most of us had a brutally long winter, but now the sun, heat and Vitamin D have returned. I love it, and I think many of you do, too.

Now that you know the why, here’s the how: 

Your name will be entered into the day’s drawing for commenting on Bloom, Bond & Build. The comments for that day’s post will be tallied and the commenter names entered at the end of each day (12:00 midnight). Only comments made by midnight (CT) of the day of the post will be included for that particular drawing.

If you read the post and decide you would like to subscribe to Bloom, Bond & Build, you will be entered in the drawing on the day you subscribe, as well as each of the remaining drawings for the week. Hint: If you wish to subscribe, do it early in the week! For those who have already subscribed to my blog, let me say “Thank You!” And, you will each receive one entry for each of the drawings done during the week (5 total).

WordPress will help me track comments and subscribers, so this is why I am asking that comments be made here rather than on FB. I want to make sure I capture all entries, and this is the most efficient way for me to do that.

Periodically throughout the week, I will announce winners and post blog teasers on Facebook.

I do “moderate” every blog comment, and if a comment is inappropriate or offensive, I will probably not approve it, and that commenter name will not be entered into the drawing.

I hope you will join me for some fun and virtual fellowship!

Have a Wonderful Mother’s Day!


Master Plans


Sisters share a lot. My sister and I were born twenty months apart; I am the older. We share the same parents, the same upbringing, and the same childhood experiences. We have the same brown eyes and the same solid work ethic. We both lack any ability to sell anything – we are without a sales gene. And, we’ve shared our joys and sorrows in …

Today, I am sharing the story of how Tim and I came to meet at . Brenda Rodgers, author and blogger, writes for single women. She advises them on how to “do singleness” in a Godly and healthy way, which can be difficult in our world. Learn more about Brenda and my story at:

And, coming up next week…

I will be posting each day on a different topic, and each day there will be a drawing for a give-away. Those who comment on my blog or subscribe to it will be entered into the drawing. I will post the full details later this week, but I hope it will be lots of fun, and I hope you’ll encourage friends to take a look at

Have a great day, and thanks for reading!