Back to School Thoughts


Are you writing tight?

These days we live in a fast-paced world. People can be impatient, especially about reading long-winded posts, emails, and texts. I’ve noticed that even fiction books seem to be shorter.

Our written communication should be clear and concise. Still, extra verbiage can slip in and most often, eliminating those words will not change the meaning.

How do we eliminate words that are simply filler that don’t add to the susbtance?

Personally, I use a weasel word list – an editing help I learned in a Margie Lawson editing workshop. It’s simply a list of words I know creep into my writing. Words like just, that, very, really, etc. Then, when I’m editing, I eliminate or replace those words.

Below is a great infographic that can help you catch extraneous words in your writing.

30 Filler Words You Can Cut Out of Your Writing (Infographic)


Mystery Chickens on Miller Farm

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

When I went outside to let the chickens out this morning, I discovered something very strange lying in the back yard…I thought they were kind of cute until I read the caution:  EMITS SHOWERS OF SPARKS.  This could prove dangerous to our six dachshunds who cannot read and chew on everything.

I quickly picked up the mysterious chickens and put  them out of reach.

Then I began to wonder – where did they come from?  I know we have a reputation as chicken people, but I’m not so sure these girls would play well with others.

How did they get there?  Who put them there?  Were they meant to entertain or harm?

I’ve spent recent afternoons watching reruns of the detective show “Monk.”  Most certainly he could solve the case of “The Mystery Chickens.”  If only he were real.


Back to School Thoughts

Every year when the back-to-school chatter begins I think about teachers. Not just public school teachers but also all those moms who undertake to homeschool.

When I was teaching in public school the words back-to-school brought mixed feelings. I loved teaching. The excitement that came in August as I prepared for another school year was hard to beat.

It’s that time of year again.

I still feel the excitement and fight the urge to buy new school supplies. Does August bring on thoughts of school and school teachers for you?


How to Survive Relocation

Our recent move was our choice. Not a PCS –  permanent change of address, which is a military term for orders. Not a corporate career move.

That did not eliminate having to go through all the phases of the actual move  or the emotional roller coaster that accompanies any relocation. A merry-go-round you can’t stop.

At first, you’re busy saying goodbyes to friends and packing. You work at break-neck speed to purge and organize your home. It’s physically and emotionally tiring.

Then moving day comes with a high-surge of adrenaline. Movers are in and out loading your belongings into the trucks.

Once those doors are close, you clean and clear out the old house, wiping away dust bunnies and lint from under the missing furniture. All the while cataloguing the memories and batting at the tears blurring your vision. With one final look around, you close the door.

Your emotions are roiling as you load yourself and your loved ones into the car filled with what you think you will need immediately – cleaning supplies, suitcases, pet food – and head to your new location.

Following behind the moving trucks, your head nearly explodes with questions. Will your stuff fit in the new place? Will the old house sell? Will we find a good church, a good vet, a good hairdresser?

Once at the new location, in a flurry of activity, the trucks are emptied and your new place fills with boxes and randomly placed furniture. Compulsively, you begin unpacking and arranging even though you are dog-tired from the previous weeks and need to pace yourself. The obsession to make the new place home outweighs the exhaustion.

Those first few days are backbreaking. You’re ripping off tape and unwrapping like crazy. You squat, lift, shovel furniture, arrange dishes, books, closets, moving stuff from room to room. You’re exhausted, sweating. Your body aches. You need to rest.

You don’t.

You surge ahead – one more box, one more hour then you’ll rest, but the unending mountains of boxes loom. The obsession to get it done overshadows the need for rest.

As boxes empty and the new place starts to feel like you live there, a sense of peace floods you. While a sign that you are acclimating to the new place that cheerful-we-are-gonna-love-it-here-and-golly-gee-this-is-super attitude can also be tricky.

Your stress levels have been off the charts.There’s been so much to do. Things that felt urgent, necessary. According to U.S. News and World Report, when the emotional and physical stress slackens, you risk a crash and burn – what I call a relocation letdown.

The article explains: “… there’s “a down-regulation of the immune system, a suppression of the immune response, [as a reaction] to the easing of stress. In addition, the surge-and-fall of stress hormones could knock down dopamine levels in the brain, which can trigger overeating and substance abuse as people (unconsciously) try to raise their dopamine levels so they can feel reward and pleasure again.”

To avoid such a letdown and its consequences you need to prevent the strain from getting to you in the first place.

You have to listen when your body screams chill out. Make yourself stop, get some rest, and replenish your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional reserves with healthy food and exercise. Your task won’t be completed as quickly as you might like. The task will get done.

Interludes of rest have kept me sane for the last six weeks. I think I’m going to keep them as part of my daily routine permanently.


Sharing Dresses Across Time and Space

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

When I was in high school, one of my favorite styles of dress was made by a company called Gunne Sax. They were old fashioned dresses with lace up bodices and high necks.  I wore one to my junior prom and my grandmother made one for my senior prom.

I also had some short versions which I wore for piano recitals.  My mom saved them all and gave them to me when they were cleaning out the closet in my old room.  Since I have been married for nearly 30 years, the dresses are in remarkable condition.

This summer I saw the following Facebook post:

Hi everyone, My oldest daughter is really in love with Victorian girls’ dresses at this time. She is 10 years old. I have been searching online to buy a dress for her but could not find anything. Anyone know where to go or if you have one and want to sell it please let me know.

The daughter was one of my piano students. We have known the family for years.  So at her next lesson I got out my old dresses.  Both the older girls were thrilled.  They asked about having them altered and I told them that was fine. Better to have the dresses worn and enjoyed than hanging in my closet.

She  posted this picture.  The dresses and the girls were very happy.

I saw the dresses at church and even at piano lessons.  It made me smile.

The family splits their time between Texas and Thailand.  The dad is a doctor and the mom is from Thailand originally.  They moved back to Thailand last month.  My dresses have now brought joy in two separate generations in two separate countries.

While at my parent’s house recently my mom and I found the picture of me in one of the dresses. I may have thought my mom was a little crazy for carefully storing and labeling all those old pictures, but I was sure glad when she could find this one.Hanging on to things for many, many years is is good thing.  Being able to find them and pass them on is priceless.


Gifts from Afar

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Beekeeper Brian recently travelled to Southeast Asia with a team of people to help with a cultural exchange camp. The team taught art classes as well as the American sports of football, basketball, and baseball. They were treated to performances by a Minority Group from a nearby village.  They also experienced the culture through food.

On the last day, they went shopping and Brian found the perfect gifts for me.The rooster sits on my piano next to my rooster clock.  The chopsticks are at my place at the table.  I try to use them but it is a very slow process.  I’ve decided they make a good diet tool.

I would be worried that Beekeeper Brian was trying to tell me something but the chopsticks have chickens on them so I know that is why he got them.  After all I am the Chicken Wrangler – just not so good with chopsticks.Catherine, our oldest daughter, recently told me I should watch the movie Moana.  She said there is a chicken in there who reminds her of me.

I suppose there are worse things with which to be associated.