Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Greatest Story of them All!

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and despite the fact that we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, the truth is BEFORE Thanksgiving is the time to start prepping for the Advent season.  Especially since this year it starts Sunday, December 1st, a couple of days after Thanksgiving.  With Thanksgiving and Black Friday I tend to forget about preparing for Advent.  Do yourself a favor this year sit down now and gather whatever it is you need to prepare your family for the greatest story of them all, the Christmas story!  Don’t make it elaborate.  Think simple.  Something you can do every day very easily!  Something that won’t take you hours to put together. 

This is what my family does.  We read an Advent story book every night.  This year it is Tabitha’s Travels**. This story is so good it really could be the only thing we do for Advent.  It is full of suspense, wonder, action, and heart challenge.  It has something for all ages.  We light an Advent wreath at dinner and eat by candle light.  Then we take our fake Advent candles to our bedrooms so we can read our story and fall asleep by candle light. 

We also do a sock calendar count down each morning.  The boys take turns removing a sock from our garland.  What the sock garland contains differs from year to year.   Sometimes manger pieces, sometimes toys.  It’s a mystery just like Christmas.   If we have a busy day and miss a story we catch up the next night.  No big deal.  One other little thing we do to make Advent special is that we eat pomegranates only during Advent and the 12 days of Christmas.  My boys probably get more excited about pomegranates than candy canes.  It’s amazing what a little withholding does for their perception.

Even this little amount that we do takes a wee bit of prep.  If I don’t get it done before Thanksgiving I will be staying up late doing it afterwards, and that just doesn’t work for me anymore.  I take all the Thanksgiving ads as a cue to start my Advent prep NOW!  I keep it all in a labeled bin, and store it so I can get to it easily.  Really, for me, getting it out is the hardest part.  After that I get inspired.

Happy Tales to you and yours this coming Advent season!


ps.  I'm not above begging.  I'd love to have some comments from anyone, even your dogs.  If you do anything special for Advent I'd love to hear about it.  Please, please, please!  It would help me feel like I'm not just posting to talk to myself. 

**Note:  I have three boys.  I have found that our Advent time goes much better if I don't try to make them sit still and quiet while listening to the Advent story.  We let them play Lego's or draw or something as long as it doesn't hype them up or disturb others.  We have, in the past, taken ourselves too seriously, and let me just tell you, nothing good came of it.  Don't make the same mistake.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ch. 11: Dragon's Tongue & Hag's Feet

Chapter 11
Dragon’s Tongue & Hag’s Feet
By Kristen S. Sandoz

Let us take a trip to a much happier story than the one of Little John I last told.  Of course, this means we head back to the Witch Hazel’s cottage which is incidentally called, Butterbrick Cottage.  Why is it called Butterbrick you are wondering?  Well that is because their sweet Jersey cow made the most fabulous sweet cream butter, which Pearl would store in crocs all throughout the year.  This butter was of such high quality that it would age in those crocs and become, over time, the most delicious butter you could ever imagine.  These days the butter you get in little boxes at the store with its pale lifeless yellow color does not even compare to the butter Pearl would sell in little bricks from the front step of the little cottage.  Her butter was a bright rich deep yellow and had the taste of heaven.  So the cottage became known as Butterbrick.  The name may not come from an exciting story, but I bet you wish you could have tasted some of that butter?

At Butterbrick Cottage we find Pearl busy at work.  She is such a mess with a blackened apron, disheveled hair and a rug beater in hand that it is hard to remember she is a person of royal heritage.  One thing I admire about Pearl is that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty by doing a good honest day’s work.  Today she is beating the rugs. A job which takes a great amount of gusto and is a good job to do when you are feeling a bit frustrated like Pearl was feeling at the moment. But that is yet another story and I will not go off the trail for it.  You will perhaps hear about it one day.

For now Pearl has been cleaning the cottage since sunrise trying to prepare it for Hazel’s return home.  The Witch Hazel has been on a long journey collecting a rare healing herb that was in full harvest on the far side of the kingdom in the Numinous Mountain range.  This particular herb, known to many as Dragon’s Tongue, was only found in that part of the kingdom and it could only be gathered every seven years at precisely the right time.  Healing herbs can be persnickety things for they require proper gathering and storing in order to maintain their fullest healing abilities.  Dragon’s Tongue was even more fussy for its window of harvest was so short and so long in coming. 

On top of this the harvesting was a dangerous business and often with small yield.  It was a favorite of the dragon population which lived in the Numinous Mountains.  The herb was really a wild flower with very dark indigo colored petals that formed a cup and drooped down toward the ground like a sad puppy.  Out of the cup hung the stamen which was bright orange and coiled into a spiral at the end much like the tongue of a dragon.  The dragons loved it because the petals and stamen were very sweet and if eaten in a large enough quantity would put them in to the most pleasant delirium.  The dragons would hoard the flowers and guard them fiercely.  One could always tell when a dragon had indulged in its Dragon’s Tongue stash for its tongue would be a bright blue from the pigment of the petals.  Fortunately, a dragon in this state could be easily persuaded to do just about anything.  Some say that gold and treasure is a dragon's weakness.  I say it is Dragon's Tongue. The former makes them greedy and mean.  The latter giddy and almost tame.

I should also tell you that Dragon’s Tongue made a very beautiful dye but required such an immense amount of the herb to actually dye a piece of clothing that is was a color only royalty could afford to wear.  In this kingdom the blue and orange of the Dragon’s Tongue were the colors of the King and his royal family.  No one else was allowed to wear those colors together. 

The journey to the Numinous Mountains was long and the work was hard for Hazel once she got there.  She had been gone a fort night when one of her doves arrived at Butterbrick Cottage with a message for Pearl telling her she would return home on the evening of Saturn’s Day.  Pearl knew Hazel would be tired and worn out from this journey.  Pearl wanted to make it easier on Hazel by having Butterbrick in tip top shape.  It was just one way she could show her kind and faithful Aunt how much she loved her.

Pearl had more planned for Hazel than just a tidy cottage.  She knew that the single most loving thing she could do for Hazel was to rub her tired and abused feet (Hazel was not a small women and her feet complained about this greatly).  If we could peek into the deepest part of Pearl’s soul we would discover that this was the one job Pearl dreaded more than anything else, even mucking out the pig pen.  Pearl’s horror of this job was not at all unfounded.  I think any girl or even boy her age would recoil in dreadfulness upon seeing the Witch Hazel’s old and haggard feet.  They were the only part of Hazel, besides her wrinkly face, crooked nose, knobby hands, and crackly voice, which lived up to the title of witch.  Nay, they went beyond witch and into the hag category.  I will not attempt to describe Hazel’s feet to you.  I’m afraid it would be too disrespectful to her.  However, I’m sure you can imagine your own grandmother’s cracked, scaled, and gnarly feet.  Then enhance that image with the Old Hag Filter and that would be what the Witch Hazel’s feet looked like.  Now let me ask you, would you want to wash those feet? 

Neither did Pearl.  This is, however, where the weeds are separated from the flowers.  Pearl was a real princess and despite how much she dreaded the job of washing Hazel’s feet she knew how much it meant to Hazel, so Pearl did it anyway.  She didn’t merely wash Hazel’s feet she did it with joy because she knew her adoptive old Aunt did so much good for the world and got so little in return.  Who was there to love and care for Hazel?  There was no one, except Pearl.  So like the daughter of a true king Pearl held her head up high, smiled her sweetest most genuine smile, sang a tranquil melody, and rubbed the Witch Hazel’s nauseating feet with not a hint of repulsion to be found.  That, my friends, is a true princesses and a true prince would do the same. 

As you can see “True love is the most testing pursuit” and that is well known. Our Pearl is passing the test.


1…Now my story is done.

2…I love you!

3…Please, kiss me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

One day I walked into an antique store in Hailey, Idaho.  The only thing I really remember from this store was a painting.  It was nestled up high in a peeked rafter.  Hardly noticeable.  It caught my eye because it was of a small boy crying.  It was most likely rarely noticed but I fell in love with that painting.  I'm sure it had something to do with my new found motherly hormones as my first born son was then only 18 months old.  We were broke though, and I left the store without it. 

Six months later I unwrapped the very same painting for my birthday.  It was a small logistical feat for my sweet and thoughtful husband to get this beloved gift to me since we lived in the valley of Oregon nearly 13 hours away.  I unwrapped the painting and cried. 

This painting has hung in various position in our house for 8 years now.  I first hung it in our dinning room without realizing the conversation piece it would be.  Nearly every person who sat down at our table would ask the same question, "What do you think she is crying about?" (As it turned out it was a little girl, but in the shadows of the gable I saw a boy.)

It was so fun to hear different people's interpretations of this painting.  I remember my African brother, who came from a very poor area in Africa, thought she was a spoiled rich girl crying because she didn't get her way.  I thought she was crying because she missed her momma.  But my favorite interpretation came from Thing 1.  It was a wonderful conversation that went something like this.  (Keep in mind he was only about two at the time.)

Thing 1:  "Mommy why do you think that girl is crying?"
Me:  "I don't know.  Why do you think she is crying?"
Thing 1:  "Because she read a sad book."
Me: "Oh, yes.  That can sometimes make you cry.  What do you think we should do about it?"
Thing 1 (very confidently): "Umm...Hug her, pray, and read a different book."

Isn't it true that a picture is worth a thousand words?  Pictures are stories all on their own. 

I wonder what you would have to say about this crying girl if you came to our house for dinner?  What story does she tell you?  Try showing this picture to your kids and see what stories they come up with.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ch. 10: The Bane of Little John

Hey Friends! 
Just wanted to let you know that I did the final edit on this one myself in order to get it out faster.  Editing is not my strong suit so I hope you can forgive any mistakes and just enjoy this important story.  My boys had plenty of things to say about this story.  Some were very profound.  I'd love to hear what thoughts you and your kids have regarding this story so feel free to leave a comment.

Happy Tales!

Ch. 10

The Bane of Little John

By Kristen S. Sandoz 2013

I think now it is a good time to tell you the story of Little John.  Oh, I know you have already heard part of his story.  He was a bandit who helped rob from the rich to give to the poor.  A seemingly honorable occupation, but a bandit he was and one does not merely become a bandit, a thief, or a lying beggar overnight.  We must always remember that everyone has a story and some stories are not happy ones.  Some are complicated, hard, rot with pain, and very sad.  Such is the case with Little John.

Before I tell you the rest, or rather I should say the beginning, of his story I need to tell you about one very important little thing called a Soule Locket.  Every child ever born in the world in which this particular kingdom exists is given a Soule Locket on the evening of the seven night of life.  This Soule Locket is given them by the Keeper of the Lockets.  He is a mysterious and elusive man known for his wisdom and power.  Some would call him a wizard others a warlock but regardless of what you call him he is good.  He appears to baby and, sometimes mother, that magical night of the baby’s life, much like the fairy in Pinocchio but with less glitter and sparkle.  He places a single Soule Locket, engraved and fashioned by his own hand so that no two lockets are the same, on the neck of the baby and whispers a blessing which he encloses in the locket.  This blessing becomes what is known as Soule Dust and it is the single most precious element in this mystical world.  Most children are taught at an early age to guard and protect their Soule Lockets. Some never learn their true value therefore lose it or carelessly give it away.  Still others are forced to pawn it in order to maintain their own miserable existence.  Then there are those who have them ruthlessly stolen from them.  If the truth be told a Soule Locket with its contents fully intact is a priceless and highly coveted possession that some would even kill for one.

I hope you have a clear understanding of what a Soule Locket is.  Now let’s get back to Little John.  He was the youngest child of a beloved and faithful priest.  The priest had three daughters and another son, named Benjamin, who was the eldest.  When Little John was four his older brother was 16.  Most people in their village called him Big Ben for he was a large and strong lad for his age.  In fact Little John was called little because his small boy stature next to Big Ben made for a decided contrast which was hard to ignore.  The two boys, despite their age and size difference were very close.  Big Ben loved having a brother to look after, wrestle, tease, teach, and love.  Naturally, Little John thought the world of Big Ben.  How could he not?  Big Ben was kind, brave, sharp, and strong. Everything a young boy admires.

That is why it was a total surprise to everyone when an outbreak of the pocks infected all five children of the priest’s family.  All recovered from the illness except Big Ben.  His fever lingered and soon an infection set in that eventually took his life.  Little John was devastated.  How could a strong lad like Big Ben die and he himself, who was so weak in comparison, live?  The question was too incomprehensible for Little John and the hole left in his heart was far too great for any answer to fill.  He became a sullen boy, quiet and brooding never saying much and smiling even less.  For two years he wandered the forests around his home endlessly neither playing nor hunting like he and his brother use to do.  He wandered and did nothing more. Every effort was made by his parents to help him process his older brother’s death.  But eventually they concluded it was something he must work out on his own.  They let him be and instead lifted up prayers on his behalf.

When Little John was six a strapping young nobleman in his year of Quest came seeking a temporary resting place from the priest of this small village in which he was passing through.  No one expected Little John to even notice.  But notice he did and the family thought for sure this Quester was the answer to their prayers.  He was handsome, friendly, and fun.  Little John took an instant liking to him.  The Quester gave him rides on his horse and taught him sword play. They went fishing and played hide-n-seek in the forest.  To Little John it was as if Big Ben had returned from the dead. 

The family was so pleased with Little John’s happiness they begged the Quester to stay with them for a whole month for they had grown fond of him as well.  He was a great help around the priests homestead.  He chopped and stacked firewood, hunted game, and escorted Little John’s sisters into the village where he would often buy them little luxuries such as fragrant soaps or silk flowers for their hats.  He would never return to the priest’s home without something special for the Misses.  One time he even brought her a five pound bag of sugar, an expense which far out paid his boarding fees.  He seemed to take delight in entertaining, helping, and giving to everyone.  Light had returned to their dim part of the kingdom.
Renaissance man image

Then one day the Quester was gone and with him went Little John’s Soule Locket and with the locket went the spirit of Little John once again.  It was quite a nasty turn of events.  Over the course of his stay the Quester had gained more and more trust from the family.  Little John loved and trusted him most of all.  The Quester knew this.  In fact his single plan for staying with the family at all was to obtain at least one valuable Soule Locket.  Originally he thought it would be from one of the sisters. He was very good with the ladies.  But when he realized how attached Little John was to him he knew that Little John would be his easiest prey.  In the end all he had to do was ask Little John and the locket was his.  Having got what he came for he left.

You may have already ascertained that this Quester was none other than the malignant Duke Monstroke himself in his true year of Quest.  Only he was bored with the whole thing and had already wasted all of his money in his first three months of quest on drinking too much, showing off for beautiful women, and gambling with men who were clearly smarter than he.  Now in order to survive he spent his time looking for weak, innocent, people to prey upon.  He would either convince them to give him some of the dust from their locket or just out right steal it all together.  Although he was handsome and seemingly kind, his true self was neither of these.  He was the most devious wolf in the most striking sheep’s clothing. 

Poor Little John had not a chance.  Once Monstroke knew he had the lad’s heart he set his teeth deep and when for his very soul.  This he obtained when he left.  Little John was happy to give him his Soule Locket but he did not expect him to leave the very next morning without a word of farewell.  This was the end for Little John.  He was but a shadow after Monstroke.  A shadow that somehow managed to live until he turned 10 at which point he ran away from home never to be heard of again.  He eventually joined a band of thieves that took their grievances with the wealthy to a new level.  They robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and this occupation was a type of revenge for Little John, who by this time was a huge hulk of a man, just like his late brother Big Ben.  Every wealthy man he robbed from he imagined was just like Monstroke (which was not at all true) and although it made his heart sing in the moment it did not bring him peace and it never brought back his Locket.

So there you have it a sad sad story!  I hope you can sleep tonight without having dreams of revenge on Monstroke yourself.  As for me I like to remember the wise words of the gracious Witch Hazel, “It is not revenge that brings peace but a heart of forgiveness and one is much harder than the other.”  I also hope you remember to heed the warning she always tells Pearl, "If you are not willing to give your life for it, don't give your Soule for it either."


1…Now my story is done.

2…I love you!

3…Please, kiss me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ch. 9: The Young Duke Monstroke

Ch. 9

The Young Duke Monstroke

There are so many stories to be told of these happy and sometimes not so happy characters that I struggle to keep on a straight course.  I am going to diverge for a moment, or possibly more, if my mind wanders, and introduce to you one of my least favorite fellows in these tales.  His name is Monstroke. Why do I not like young Duke Monstroke, you ask?  Well, mostly because he is selfish and really never thinks of anyone but himself.  It is so very hard to like a selfish person. He is what the fantasy world calls an "evil villain" and the psychology world calls a "narcissist."  In short, he thinks the universe revolves around him and is impossibly blind to the hurts or cares of anyone around him--including, and most especially, animals.  His selfishness drives him to cruelty without hesitation.  He only thinks of his own self-preservation.  In his mind everyone is against him.  I am sorry to say there might only be one little faint speck of good in him, and even that is dim and doubtful.

How was that for an introduction to my newest character?  Not so promising, is it?  But I am afraid that without Monstroke our story would be a bit less exciting, for he is part of the reason we have a story at all.  With Monstroke, I must start a few years back.  At present he is 16 years of age.  In this fine land it is customary for a boy to be sent off on his 16th birthday on a Quest for one whole year and when he returned he would be considered a man.  So Monstroke is currently in this Year of Quest.  But four years ago he was merely 12, and at 12 he was still a boy.  This is where I must begin.

Monstroke was a lad who showed promise.  He came from a wealthy family of royal blood.  He was handsome at 12 and growing handsomer each year.  He was athletic and sharp and could be somewhat witty and charming for a boy of that age.  He was the middle brother of five boys, which unfortunately haunted him daily.  He felt he was always unjustly left out or included and it never seemed to be the one he wanted at the time or for the reason he wanted it.  His two older brothers were given big important tasks like carrying letters for their father to the King in the Royal City, but he was not old enough yet to join them.  They went to buy wild horses at auction and then were allowed to break them all by themselves, but Monstroke, at 12, wasn’t even allowed to go near them. 

Yet, when it came to things like skipping lessons to romp in the forest like his younger two brothers he was suddenly too old!  Every day he was forced to eat a whole tablespoon full of Cod Liver Oil when his younger brothers only had to have a wee little teaspoon and his older brothers didn’t have to take it at all if they didn’t want to (but usually they did).  At Christmas his older brothers got beautiful new leather sheaths in their stockings.  His younger brothers got sweet peppermint candies and a felted kick ball.  What did Monstroke get?  A silver drinking cup!  Who cares if it once belonged to his dead grandfather Monstroke (not to mention worth quite a bit of money).  Blah, blah!  How dull and disappointing.

Over and over Monstroke felt left out and forgotten.  To give him credit, his feelings weren’t entirely unfounded.  The only time his father ever paid attention to him was to bash him about or to criticize his every flaw.  He never had a kind word or gentle touch for Monstroke--nor any of his boys, for that matter.  In Monstroke’s case this caused a great erosion in his heart.  He became bitter, and bitterness chips away at the heart very slowly but steadily 'til one day, without intervention, there is simply no heart at all.  Monstroke began to think higher of himself than anyone else and by his 13th birthday he was sure he was ready to go on his Quest a few years early.

Monstroke went to his mother; he was too sheepish to approach his father about this subject. 

“Mother, my 13th birthday is coming up.  Don’t you think I have grown very much this year?” he asked.

“You have, my boy.  You are at least 2 inches taller these last 6 months alone,” she answered. She happened to be lengthening his breeches at that moment.

“I thought so, too.  I am definitely ready to do new things this year. Don’t you think?” he continued to probe.

“Certainly my dear.  You have new lessons to learn.” Monstroke winced upon hearing this but pushed on. 

“Don’t you think, though, that some adventure is in store for me this year?”

“I think adventure is just the thing a boy your age needs.” His mother, who was truly kind, despite being married to a difficult man, smiled teasingly.

This was all Monstroke needed.  He felt his mother’s answer was just the permission he was looking for to start off on his Quest.  That is exactly what he did.  The next day he gathered all the things he could think he might need, including his silver cup, packed them on one of the family donkeys and headed out on what he thought would be a great adventure.

It would be helpful here for me to mention that it is customary for the Quester of wealthy families to be sent off with a big celebration put on for him by his family.  All of his friends and relatives would come for the sendoff and bring gifts that would help him on this journey.  Sometimes they would give money or jewels, other times it would be a dagger, a compass, or a fine felt hat.  The father of the Quester was to provide a fine horse and the mother would usually spend a year making a special woolen cape embroidered with detailed embellishments.  But Monstroke was so eager to do his own thing he decided to provide his own supplies.  Unfortunately, he didn’t really know what he would need, so he began his Quest sorely unprepared both physically and mentally.  For along with gifts the men at the celebration will also bring stories of their own Quests as well as advice and wisdom passed down from generations of Questers, all of which would have been helpful to Monstroke.  But he was young and proud and did not see a need for any of that.

I will not go into great detail about Montstroke’s first attempt at his Quest.  I will say this; he was only gone three days before his older brothers finally found him beaten and bruised and robbed clean of all his possessions including his donkey and silver cup.  He had stolen some laundry off a line at a nearby cottage to cover himself because even his clothes, which were clearly the clothes of a rich man’s son, had been stolen.  The only problem was the only clothes he had found were women’s breeches.  He had been hiding in a tree along the road, waiting for a cart or something to pass by, hoping he could sneak a ride back in the direction he had come, when along came his brothers.  He was truly excited to see them and, without thinking, jumped from his perch and flagged them down, forgetting his delicate attire.  The older brothers found Monstroke’s predicament utterly amusing and fattened the story to make it even more delicious to tell.  It was such a well-loved story that it outlived Monstroke himself.  It became one of those stories to tell young boys about the perils of trying to be a man before you are one.

In fact, he became somewhat of a legend in his own right, for unfortunately Monstroke added a great many stories to this genre before he became a man.  And some will argue that he never actually did become a man despite his growing older.   A great many males truncate their psychological development by choosing to engage in activities of a mature nature before their mind is ready to process them.  Even more sadly, some are forced to participate in these activities, which leads to more of a paralyzed development.  Either way it is never good, and very hard to reverse the damage. 

Before Monstroke had reached his 16th birthday he had attempted going on his Quest without sanction three times.  By the time his real Quest came around Monstroke had seen things of such debauchery, scandal, pain, suffering, pride, and malice that his mind was disfigured to the point of numbness.  In fact, on the day of his 16th birthday when all of his friends and relations gathered for his great send-off, the Duke Monstroke did not care to go on his Quest.  Can you imagine!  For him it was a matter of, "been there, done that," even though he hadn’t really.  He was bored with the idea and altogether lazy in general.  What could a quest possibly do for him? 

There is much to tell on his account so you can be sure to hear more of this dark fellow.  For now I will end my introduction of the young Duke Monstroke and leave you with these words from the Witch Hazel: “The tempering of a good blade will not be shortened.”

One... Now my story is done.
Two...I love you!
Three...Please kiss me.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Go. Heal Thyself, Girl!

Go.  Heal Thyself, Girl!

A story of personal healing

Ever since I gave birth to Thing 1 I’ve struggled with slouching.  I figured it was a combination of things;   engorged breasts, that would have won money in a wet t-shirt contest, muscle fatigue from holding a well fed baby, and stomach muscles that had been stretched beyond reason.  Two more babies and nine more years under my belt and I’m still struggling with slouching.  In fact it’s been getting worse.  For at least the last year and a half I’ve been consciously trying to fix the problem.  I check in with myself regularly throughout the day, “Am I slouching?  Yes!  Stop that!” I’ve been working on my core trying to bolster those muscles and give my shoulders a break.  All to no avail.  What is my problem?  I was a dancer for heaven sake.  Dancers don’t slouch!  They have lovely posture (and small breasts, I might add).
Yesterday, I woke up and put on a real new bra.  Not a nursing bra or the bandeau bras I’ve been sporting for the last 9 years because they are comfortable and what’s the use with real bras anyway when every hour your size seems to change.  It took me two hours to get this real bra picked out.  I asked the sales gal where the A cups were.  She said that Victoria’s Secrets doesn’t carry A cups.  Then she added, “And you are definitely not an A cup”.  Uh, yes I am.  In collage I was a 36B and now, well, now I just have pocket flaps.  She smiled and measured me.  I was pretty sure she was trying to boost my ego along with my boobs because she said I measured at a 34C or a 32D.  What!!!!  If I told my three nicely endowed sisters and mother that I was a C or D cup I would never hear the end of it.  Whatever Victoria’s!  Low and behold I walked out of there with three 32D bras that are way more comfortable than my 36Bs ever were!  How was I supposed to know? Victoria’s wasn’t even around when I started wearing bras.

Yesterday I woke up and put on my new 32D bra.  I brushed my teeth.  I checked in with myself, “Am I slouching? No!  Cool.  Maybe all those exercises are finally paying off?”  I moved on.  I check in throughout the day as usual.  Each time my answer was the same, “Am I slouching? No!”  I can’t believe it.  I have never given myself a positive answer to that question and now three in one day.  Unreal! I get ready for bed, put my PJ’s on and brush my teeth.  One last check in, “Am I slouching?  Yes!”  Huh???

When I weaned Thing 3 a couple months ago I actually cried for my sorry droopy little sisters.  Poor things! They worked hard for me and now their usefulness is over.  Done.  Never again will they nourish another human being, of course, my husband has a different opinion.  But I just wanted them to live out the remainder of their deflated little lives in contentment knowing they served faithfully and well.  They were troopers and maybe they even deserve a little purple heart tattooed over the top of them. 

I have discovered, however, that my sisters have will.  They shall not let life pull them down.  My sisters have been lifted and they are singing hallelujah!  These girls have life left in them yet.  They are standing ready to take on the world.  You go girls!  As it turns out my new 32D has miraculously healed me.  My slouch is gone.  Those maybe two pound weights have been slung back into their rightful position and I find myself over compensating, leaning back even, with the change in weight distribution.  As if my whole body is rejoicing with the ease in which I can stand straight now.  I find myself asking, “Was it really that simple?  All I needed was a new well fitted bra?” Amazing!

Here is my plea for all of women kind.  Please, if you slouch, go get your sisters lifted.  No matter how small you think you are give them the support they deserve.   Go.  Heal thyself, girl!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Book Exchange Party

My boy's school did an End-of-the-Year-Book-Exchange.  It was a HUGE success!  There were piles and piles of books and piles and piles of kids.  My boys brought home a backpack full each of new-to-them books.  Some of them will definitely be keepers.  The rest we'll just send back next year.  I think I might have been more excited about the book exchange than my boys.  And next year I might even volunteer to help with it.  It was that cool!

A used book exchange is a brilliant idea for the summer.  I am so pleased to be a part of a school which has some amazing creativity!  The best part is that it is something anyone could  do.  So if your school doesn't do a book exchange or you just need a fresh pile of books try this idea. The concept is easy. 

Invite a good handful of friends or neighborhood kids to bring all the books they are done reading and ready to pass on to someone else to your back yard.  Then trade one for one.  It's that simple! 

Of course if you wanted to make it a little flashy you could do a book reading, add a craft, and of course, some healthy snacks.  If it were me I'd make sure I threw in a few extra books so that there were plenty to choose from.  I'm sure I could pick up some at garage sales or second hand stores.  The leftovers, if any, could be kept for the next book exchange or donated to a charity of choice.

Now doesn't that sound like a fun way to spend a summer's day!

Happy Tales!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Justly Story Ch. 8: A Friendship & A Name

Ch. 8: A Friendship & a Name

Kristen S. Sandoz



Besides the Witch Hazel’s nasty hens there were plenty of other animals at the cottage who had less pernicious stories to tell.  But I will save that for another day.  For now let me just give you a roll call of the others.   There were two majestic roosters who did not always get along, the older rooster having one blind eye which made him all the more cocky.  Then there was the sweet old Jersey cow who gave her milk faithfully and without complaint each morning.  Her name was Blue and everyone loved her.  She had tender doe eyes with long lashes and she listened with a mother’s ear to anyone who talked to her.  Brother was the old mutt, who mainly slept on the hearth until he was kicked off by the cat. Then he would move to the sunny cottage step where he could keep an eye on the comings and goings as he dozed. 


Pearl and Hazel also kept a sow and her fella.  Here and there they would produce a litter of piglets all rosy pink and full of squeals.  There was a team of smoky carrier pigeons who lived in the loft of the cottage.   Hazel used these pigeons to communicate with Pearl when she was called away on various healing journeys.  They were truly amazing birds and once in a blue moon or so Hazel’s birds would arrive home with a message from a far off land in which she had left them for that purpose.  Those days were exciting ones at the cottage.  A message from a distant friend was always welcome.  Lastly there was a young yet stubborn mule whom Hazel understood completely.  She never made him work when he didn’t want to, but then she only fed him if his work was done.  In this way the two got along perfectly.  Oh, yes!  I mustn’t forget the cottage cat, Bloom, a grey puffball of a thing, who thought she was a queen.  She would be incensed if she knew I had left her for last.  As far as she is concerned the cottage is hers and all who lived there existed in order to do her bidding. 

So there you have it the lively cast of characters who lived at the Witch Hazel’s cottage.  But they are not what today’s story is about.  Today Justly meets Pearl.  If you remember Justly had swung his pup on his shoulders and with a stick in his hand was making his way toward Pearl. 


Now I must confess that I have greatly inflated the excitement of this first encounter.  I have perhaps led you to believe that some great and amazing thing or conversation took place on this first meeting when in fact the greatest thing that came from it was a friendship and a name.  A relatively commonplace conversation took place between the two and it went something like this.


“Good morning, Princess,” Justly called from a little distance.


“It is a good morning, but I’m afraid that your eyes must be bad or you would see that I am most definitely not a princess,” Pearl answered back with a good humored laugh not realizing at first that Justly was indeed blind.  Justly continued toward the sound of her voice and came into a patch of sunshine near the well where he set his pup down to play.


“Oh, how your pup shines like a copper penny in the sunlight!  Where did you get such a fine animal?” she asked in awe.


“My eyes are truly dark but my arms are quite strong.” And to prove this point he flexed his left arm and asked, “May I help you draw water and I’ll tell you my story?” 


Pearl snickered at the sight of this strange boy with dark handsome eyes flexing a rather limp looking muscle mass before her.  But she agreed and was happy for the company. 


At this point Justly, while helping Pearl with her chores, proceeded to tell her the whole story of who he was and how he acquired the pup and why he was at her cottage.  The story amused Pearl very much, being an orphan herself.  She was also impressed with the sensitivity this boy show toward a helpless little animal and his capable attitude despite his handicap. He was most definitely the kind of person she wanted to be friends with.


When his story ended the chores were pretty much done and all that was left was milk for the cat and cream for the butter. 


“Please, for all your help, come in and meet my aunt and have breakfast with us.  I will get your pup a bowl of milk as well, for he looks famished!” remarked Pearl.


This was not an invitation Justly could turn down for he, too, was famished.  “Indeed my lady.  We would be honored,” said Justly tipping an imaginary hat and bowing the best gentlemanly bow he could imagine.


“Come on then, Court Jester.  I’ll race you to the front door!” Pearl challenged as she bumped Justly’s bowing hip bone with hers throwing Justly off balance and tumbling him to the ground.  This may seem unfair or malicious to you, considering the state of Justly’s eyes, but it was all in good fun and he scrambled to his feet and made a decent effort at racing Pearl.  He was a boy, after all, and I have not met a boy yet who can pass up a chance at competition. 

Of course Pearl won, but when Justly arrived at the door she was just setting down a bowl of milk for Bloom, who was not pleased at sharing her throne with a rascally pup.  As she set a second bowl down for the pup she patted his head and scratched his ears and said, “There you are little shiny Copper.  Enjoy!”


There you have it, both the story of how Justly and Pearl became friends and how Copper got his name.  I do hope you weren’t too disappointed in this first encounter.  I know it is rather ordinary, but then, Pearl was an ordinary girl.  She had no particular good looks or special intellect.  She was just like any other girl, and just like other girls she had a few talents: she could sing to soothe the soul and a bit of wisdom when she chose to use it.  Otherwise she could have been you or me, if you are a girl, that is. 


What’s that?  Oh yes!  There is that.  She was also a princess, but remember, she does not know this, so it doesn’t really count.


This part of my story finally comes to an end.  But don’t be gloomy for, as the Witch Hazel has remarked, “One chance meeting is sometimes the beginning of a beautiful story.”


1…My story is done.

2…I love you!

3…Please kiss me.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Might-Fine Adventure of Kelly Cook

I am so excited to be spreading the word about a young college student named Kelly Cook.  I have watched Kelly grow up since grade school and she is an incredible talented and creative person.  She is working on publishing a book that she wrote AND illustrated.  It is an absolutely beautiful book! 

The Might-Fine Adventure of Piper and Floyd is about, Piper, a girl who loves to explore, and Floyd, a giraffe that "honks", embark on this detour-turned-adventure story.  View the link below to have part of the story read to you and for an opportunity to support Kelly.

Happy Tales Kelly!


Click HERE to support Kelly on her Kickstart site!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Story of the Three Sisters' Garden

So much joy comes for me with Spring!  Just the sheer knowledge that I made it through the dark and gloomy Oregon winter is enough to send my heart soaring.  But Spring's gifts do not stop there, Easter, a steady unfurling of flower blossoms, off and on sunshine with fresh pourings of rain, and the endless opportunities to work in my yard.  I feel so alive!

This week I'm working on my garden.  Today I started a Three Sister's Planting.  This is an Native American tradition of mindfully planting corn, beans, and squash.  Before I started planting I did a Google search to get more information on how and why this is done.  What I found on it was so interesting I wanted to pass it on here.

At first, I thought this page was too "Thanksgivingy" to post in Spring.  Then I realized the only reason the Pilgrims and Natives were able to have a feast in the fall was because they planted in the Spring.  Their planting technique was unique to North America and true to their tradition of caring for the earth.  Since Earth Day was last week this "planting story" seems more than fitting for a lovely Spring day like today!

I also can't help but see the metaphor between growing a garden and growing children.  I'm pretty sure there is a story there for me to explore but I haven't quite worked it out yet.

Happy Growing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Justly Story Ch 7: The Nasties

Ch. 7: The Nasties

By Kristen S. Sandoz

Some time ago I began to tell you about Justly's quest to find a new place to sleep for himself and his new pup.  They had been outcast from the Royal City on account of the pups imperfect eye color.  The pup had one flame orange eye and one ice blue eye and this was entirely unacceptable for a hound of the King.  Justly had saved the pup from an untimely death on account of this imperfection.  As a result Justly had to leave the city and his warm comfortable bed under the Baker's oven.  Last time Justly had just fallen asleep under an ancient walnut tree to a lullaby from a lovely voice and finally drifting of into a splendid dreaming about his mother. 

Now, on with our story.

The voice that sang Justly to sleep belonged to our beloved Pearl and in the morning Justly heard Pearl’s voice again, along with a robust and craggy alto, and knew instantly that he was in the presence of royalty.  He knew also that this tree would be his new home.  He resolved to dig out some of the rotten interior of the old walnut tree as well as some of the soft dirt around its base in order to give himself better protection from the elements.  Soon after these thoughts Pearl and Hazel’s song ended, the old heavy cottage door creaked open and Pearl stepped out of the door to draw water from the well.  Justly, wanting to make friends in his new neighborhood, hoisted the little pup onto his shoulders and approached Pearl.

She was carrying a wooden pail.  She used this pail daily to draw water from the well to fill up the cistern in the cottage kitchen and to water the cottage’s small family of hard working farm animals.  These animals included 25 hens who looked lovely from a distance, but have a story all their own.  Actually, this story is a worthy one to tell so I will indulge my own love of chickens and tell it now. 

You see these ladies and their ancestors before them were rare breeds of chickens.  Hazel and her mother before her had collected them from all over the known world during their healing journeys.  It had turned into quite a hobby or even an obsession for Hazel.  It was a way she could stay connected to her late mother.  Oh, what a sight these ladies were!  Any traveler passing by the cottage would immediately notice these exotic ladies from the well-worn path that went passed Hazel’s home.  They were intriguing looking birds, some with puffballs for heads and others with puffballs for feet.  Still others had necked necks or feathers that made them look like a mop.  There were some ladies that were as black as the night with shimmery green iridescence.  There were huge hens that stood almost to your hip and with them were little tiny hens who laid little tiny pink eggs. 

This flock of chickens was so lively looking that often strangers passing by, who did not know better, would have a great desire to get better acquainted with the birds.  They would go to all kings of lengths to call them over to the edge of the road with corn, or bread, or barley berries that they happen to be carrying with them.  The extraordinary flock of hens would waste no time hustling and bustling over to this free fare.  They were like an entourage of fine maidens hurrying to be the first to try on Cinderella’s lost glass slipper.

At first the travelers would get all excited to see these exotics running their way.  But as the hens came closer to the offered goodies the more it became apparent to the travelers that there was something quite wrong with these ladies.  Indeed one could not call them ladies at all!  For as they looked like a lovely picture from a distance up close they were a freak show!  Every single one of those ladies was pecked and bloodied.  Not one lady remained with all of her once lovely feathers in tacked.  The fact was these chickens looked nasty.   Not only did they look nasty they acted nasty too, which is why their feathers were in such an awful state.  Many travels stood in shock and horror as these nasty creatures scrambled and fought for the bits of food thrown out for them.  Some travels, mostly of the female kind, would squeal in fear and hurry off down the path as fast as their mode of transport could carry them.  Almost all the travels who looked upon these wretched creatures would be plagued with dreams of these Nasties, as they came to be known,  for weeks to come. 

Why did they look so terrifying?  What had happened to them?  And why did Hazel keep such fowl creatures about her lovely cottage?  Well the last question is perhaps the easiest to answer.  Hazel not only loved these birds and hoped her love would reform them but she also knew that the lesson these birds had to teach the strangers who passed by was a necessary one.  It all started with one cranky hen pecking on all the others soon those birds got big enough and brave enough to peck on others.  Then after sometime the only way those ladies could treat each other was with a peck.  All the hens started pecking on all the other hens until every single one of them looked bloodied and nasty and horrifying.  Sometimes they’d get into such a nasty pecking mess that they’d simply peck one hen to death and they wouldn’t stop till her bones were pecked clean of feathers, skin and meat.  Horrid absolutely horrid! 

As for the Witch Hazel she would warn,  "nastiness begets nastiness, meanness begets meanness, selfishness begets selfishness". 

1…Now my story is done.
2…I love you!
3…Please kiss me.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Egg

The Egg

By Kristen S. Sandoz



The other day my five-year-old son had a friend over and they spent a lot of time with our hens.  Later that day when I went to check on the ladies I found two eggs smashed against the fence and evidence of a cover up.  If you have ever raised your own chickens you know how precious eggs are.  I was not happy about this and handled the whole thing very poorly.  That night I was really disturbed by my reaction and it brought to mind an experience I had as a five year old.


It was small, black, exquisitely hand painted, and edged with gold gilding.  It was lovely and delicate much like a teacup with gold trim.  You know the kind that even as an adult you’re afraid to touch its dainty handle with your comparatively large and clumsy fingers.  Only a teacup doesn’t quite compare with the fragility of nature.  In my hand I was holding an egg.  It was a gift to my mother from our Japanese neighbor, who moments before had delivered it to our door.  At the age of five I was fascinated with its elegance.  I had asked my mother if I could hold it.  Without hesitation she handed it to me and then turned and left the room.  What was she thinking?


I remember exactly what I was thinking as I held that piece of art and stroked its fine detailing.  The thought just came to me.  Not out of naughtiness but out of genuine curiosity.  Somewhere in my short little five-year-old life I had heard that an egg shell was so strong that you could squeeze it and it would not break.  Lord knows why at that moment I chose to test this theory with this particular egg.  I was not thinking about action and reaction.  All I was thinking was how good it felt to squeeze the impressively strong orb in my hand.


It’s hard to describe how it felt in my grip.  Perhaps you will have to try it yourself to understand.  But it felt GOOD.  It felt satisfying.  Like pushing myself to an extreme, like holding my breath under water until the very last of my capability and then holding it just one second longer.  I was truly amazed and absorbed in its strength.  Just how much pressure could it handle?  Was I strong enough to break it?  Was it even possible?


Then it happened and it was as if the whole world around me slowly imploded into the palm of my hand and I saw for one second, at five years old, a glimpse of the tragedy of many people’s lives.  My chest tightened, my heart stopped, my hand quivered and the feeling of utter despair, irrevocable damage, and life long regret swept through my entire being.  I was left standing with nothing but the shards of a once whole, precious, and beautiful object. 


I did what all of us want to do when we experience this type of regret and loss.  I immediately ran to my mother.  I sobbed uncontrollably into her arms for my loss, for her loss.  She let me cry until my tears were dry and then without anger and with true grace she said, “It’s okay.  Accidents happen.  It was only an egg.”  At the time I thought she was putting on an act to get me to stop crying.  After all it was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life up to that point.  Now as an adult I understand.  It was only an egg. 


It was a gift to learn deep regret for such a small price.  I have often remembered that egg broken in my hand when I am on the edge of an impulse.  That feeling of immediate satisfaction or pleasure warms itself in my being and then I see a lovely black egg nestled safely in the palm of my hand.  Suddenly without warning my heart stops and instantly my muscles seize up and I am filled with that feeling of regret once again and I am saved.  What cemented this lesson in my mind was my mother’s reaction. She comforted and mourned with me.  If she had yelled and raged or punished me I might have felt duly reward and moved on. 


I often wish I could recreate this scene for myself adult.  I wish that some how I could learn the pain of regret before the stakes are too high.    I wish I could trust myself with this precious gilded egg and let myself break it.  I wish that I could react as my mother reacted with grace and forgiveness and open arms.  But I can’t help but wonder about the balance between grace and justice.  If my boys were to make a mistake that couldn’t be nicely mended how could I keep them from throwing the baby out with the bath water?  This is not the message I want my boys to get.  This is not grace.  Is there not a good and whole life to be led after regret?  Is there not repentance, redemption, and reconciliation?  Did Christ not die because there are fragile eggs that we just cannot put back together again?  I want my boys to know that I love them no matter what.  I want to echo God’s grace, healing, and love, so they can come to truly understand that neither life, nor death, nor angles, nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.