Animal Antics

Just short of 5 am, I find myself hostage to two felines. One climbs onto the covers next to me and stares into my soul with his big green eyes, daring me to see how ravished he is. The other bounces from night stand to dresser, knocking things down with his paws, angry at the injustice of waiting to be let outdoors.

I snap my fingers at them, wanting to take back some kind of power, but nothing doing. They’re in complete control. If they continue their shenanigans they awaken the wildlings, and somehow they seem to enjoy knowing that.

Defeated, I climb out of bed and give in to their commands. Mr. Bow Tie, his criminal name, follows me to the food container outside to be sure I’m following orders. They inhale three small bites and lick their paws like that fills the void that had created the cavernous hole in their stomachs, thus hailing their hostage from slumber.

I sigh and sink into my chair, relieved their demands have been met and I can have some morning quiet time, but alas, their accomplice arrives. Tiptoeing and grunting from the top of the stairs is “Skippy Jo Jane,” (her criminal name.) The relentless Chauweenie, helpless in her own right, demands I assist her with her morning constitution and fill her bowls as well. All the while, my fearless guard dog sleeps placidly nearby.

The hostage situation comes to a peaceful end, and the household is still once again. I’d better get to my quiet time before a whole new set of occupants need assistance.

#heldhostagebycats #pethostage #asyouwish

Writing Mama

5:30 am

Releasing words

On blank page

Husband stirs, coughs,

Releases his own gas

Into the atmosphere

Cats scratch hungrily at the door

Dogs want scratched too, by me

Baby calls for mama

Another needs covers

The third isn’t sure

He can go back to sleep

Just like that my quiet space,

My blank page

Is gobbled up

By the humans and animals I love

The words stay stuck

Inside my head

For one more day

Minivan Mom

With apologies to minivan moms who would never find stale fries underneath seats and who are comfortable in designer clothes. I salute you!

This post originated from a conversation with a best friend yesterday about the stigma of moms and minivans. Since I love poetry and it’s April/National Poetry Month, I couldn’t help but honor my minivan with a poem.

Minivan Mom

By Regina Cyzick Harlow


Hat hides uncombed hair

Yoga pants and maxi skirts

Feel good on a shape

That has birthed babies

And bears the look of one

Who stress eats and sneaks treats

From the children’s candy jar

Fancy vehicles feel as much a misfit on her

As designer clothes

Skinned knuckles reveal

Wrestling matches

With car seats and buckles

Stale fries underneath seats

Reminds her of bargaining for sanity

Sticky-fingered handprints

And cartooned stickers

Placed haphazardly on smudged windows

Evokes smiles

As she revels in the unspeakable joys of motherhood

I am she and she is me

I am a proud minivan Mom

As much as I own “minivan Mom” status, I have very few photos to prove it. Someone snapped this when I was leading runners and walkers for our annual 5K.

Then there’s that time we were snowed in.

And the other time when a summer storm brought a tree branch down on my van.

And that’s about all I’ve got for photos.

Currently my van is in the repair shop and I’m driving an SUV. The lovely folks in the school pick-up line shout out, “that’s a nice ride,” but I can’t wait to be back in this white beauty. (In the eyes of the beholder, right?)

Dancing; taboo to therapy 

I covered the phone receiver in my hand and whispered to my co-worker, “Is ballet a sport?” Clearly I knew nothing about ballet or sports. (When I was asked to cover my first county-league baseball game my completed article had little to do with the action on the field and everything to do with the community feel at the park. It ended up a cover for the weekly community paper instead of in the sports section as originally intended.) 

But I digress. 

I was trying to keep the caller inquiring about an article on her ballet studio from hearing my howling coworker laughing at my gaffe. “Ballet is ‘the arts’ Regina,” she gasped between breaths, “not sports.”

Being raised in the Old Order Mennonite faith, all dancing was taboo. Other than witnessing occasional polka dancing at my dad’s non-Mennonite family functions and uninhibited childish hopping when our “worldly” friend played the accordion for us, dancing wasn’t even in our vernacular. But oh I felt music in my soul. 

Mom’s nickname for me was the Pennsylvania Dutch word for clumsy, and I lived up to that like a bull in a china shop. I did enjoy the Monday night square dances on the deck of the lodge at Deer Valley Ranch the summer I worked there, but no one seemed to mind my lack of coordination. 

Imagine then, I birthed a daughter that lives and breathes dance! She was two when I took her to see the spring recital of a parishioner who owned a dance studio. I was so out of my comfort zone, I chose a seat near the back exit of the auditorium. Our little girl had never seen “professional” dancing before, and she was mesmerized. She got down from my lap and in the dark at the back of the room, she followed every move the dancers made on stage. From that moment on, all we heard was dance. 

She was determined to attend their summer dance camp, and when I told her she needed to be potty trained to participate we had instant success. Really! Since then she has taken ballet and tap, and this year she is loving acro. 

I’ve shared before about my health issues this spring and summer, and once it was determined that my Psoas muscle was being problematic, my chiropractor suggested I find activities to strengthen my core. Since that initial “just going to support a parishioner” dance recital, the studio owner has become one of my best friends. When I was talking to her about the chiropractor’s advice, she suggested I try an adult lyrical ballet class as part of my therapy. 

I never once considered a dance class for myself. Ever. But something about the idea stirred my soul. I asked our daughter if she would like mommy to take a dance class too, and she was ecstatic. Yes! 

Imagine the young dance teacher trying to instruct this extremely insecure, totally inhibited, self-conscious non-dancer to stretch my non-dancing body like bubble gum. No finesse, no aplomb, more like a chicken after meeting its demise on mom’s block in my childhood years. But this date with other women, all with their own stories, has fast become one of my favorite spaces in my week. 

I still don’t know much about ballet, or sports for that matter, but the day I stop learning is the day I stop living. Ballet has been the most unexpected productive therapy I have participated in, stretching me literally and figuratively in ways I never imagined. These words of Bob Marley sum it up for me, “Forget your troubles and dance.” 

Just for laughs 

For some reason my mind was recalling childhood stories this evening and I thought I’d share a few with you. 

1) By 1992, some of the family had strayed from our upbringing and were watching movies and television with friends. This was the year the movie “Wayne’s World” was released and for some reason it was a big hit for my oldest brother. He would walk around the house saying, “Party on, Wayne.”

After this went on for awhile my mom finally said, “I just don’t get it! Why would someone party ON Wayne?!” 

Even after repeated attempts at explanation mom was still struggling with the idea of someone partying ON Wayne. Finally my brother changed the words to, “Continue to party, Wayne.” She got it then. 

I’ve still never seen that movie. 

2) In the lifestyle in which we were raised, it was not unusual for a van load of relatives and/or friends to show up from out of state and stay with a host family. The host family would then drive their guests around for visits with others within the church. 

Even though we all wore the “plain dress,” we could often tell at a glance if someone was not from our area. 

One day myself, my two little sisters, and several neighbor kids, decided to dress up as “Canadian visitors,” and go for a visit. I don’t remember much what the other’s did, but I put powder in my hair to whiten it, pulled it straight back into a bun, and put on my mom’s head covering and bonnet. I also dug out her plainest dress and shoes. I was probably about 12 so to fill out her caped dress, I stuffed tea towels in the top. 

We hitched up the horse and buggy and decided to drive the five miles or so to someone we knew well. I was driving. 

The buggy looked a lot like this one, but had four doors instead of two. The horse was even close the the same color. 
As we drove past the house of someone we barely knew, one of the kids tugged unexpectedly on the horses rein and he turned into their driveway. 

Simple, I thought, we can just turn around and drive right back out. What I didn’t anticipate was a dog barking ferociously that would spook the horse. 

I handed the reins to one of the boys and jumped out to manually turn the horse around, but the dog was awfully suspicious of me, too. Maybe he smelled the baby powder in my hair. 

The dog started after me so I began circling the buggy to jump back in. The kids in the buggy were scared and had closed the door so I was out of  luck. Meanwhile, the matron of the household was standing at the door with a puzzled and somewhat horrified look on her face as the tea towels started falling out of the bosom of my dress. I was never so thankful for a disguise in my life. 

Eventually we got the horse turned back around and I landed safely back in the buggy, along with the tea towels that had tried to escape. We did go on to visit our friends and were so well disguised that we had them fooled until they saw us close up and heard us talk. 

I don’t have pictures because we didn’t have cameras. What I wouldn’t give to have that scene caught on a cell phone video.

For all that was hard in our lives, we sure did know how to have a great time! 

Senior Moment

“I have to ask,” the cashier said almost sheepishly, “are you a senior?” 

The question was innocent enough since I was accompanied by some of my favorite church ladies, several of whom have white hair, but I was caught off guard. 

I wanted to say, “I have been living my 39 years to the fullest and wouldn’t go back a day in my life, but don’t rush me forward.” 

However, all of my deep-breathing pastoral calming techniques malfunctioned and instead I said, “I feel like throwing my wallet at you.” 

Sigh. I really said that. 

Sometimes words of grace and mercy roll off my tongue like gold, but more often I succumb to my lifelong “foot-in-mouth” diagnosis. This was clearly one of those more oftens. 

It gets worse. 

“Well,” the cashier replied, somewhat embarrassed, “some businesses start including seniors at 50.” 

“What?!” I gasped, realizing that she was certain I was at least 50. “I’m not even 40! This conversation has spiraled quickly. I can’t believe this is happening right now!”

Meanwhile, the ladies hearing the conversation were struggling to contain bursts of laughter. 

“Look, how about I just pay you and leave so I can nurse my bruised pride,” I said, laughing, never thinking I should have at least asked for the senior discount or even a free meal after that fiasco. 

I walked out joking with the ladies and mentally recalled lines to a poem I wrote years ago titled, “Coming of Age.” Ironically, I can’t remember it all, neither can I locate it (senior moment?), but I remember the following…

A few more pounds found their way to my thighs and a crow left it’s footprints around my eyes… so bring on the wrinkles and sagging breasts. I’ll live a full life ’til I’m laid out to rest.”

That’s me on the left, sipping tea with my lovely and quite young bestie. If this is senior living, bring it on! 

From now on I will practice more composed responses to the “are you a senior” question. That poor cashier is probably still nursing her embarrassed ego. Whatever my age, I hope I can always respond that my life has been lived to the fullest. 

The truth about our plant-based-ish family

This past March I came across “Forks Over Knives,” (referred to hereafter as FOK) a documentary promoting a “whole foods plants based” (vegan) diet. I convinced my husband to watch it and asked if he would try it with me for one month. At the end of the month we could do one of three things; decide that was the most horrible decision we’d ever made as a couple, use the recipes and lifestyle as a good resource for a well-balanced diet, but include some meats and dairy, or become tee-totalers and go all-out vegan. 

To my surprise, he agreed to try it. 

We were amazed at how much better we felt within the first two weeks. However, we did not push our children (7, 4, and minus 1 at the time) to try it. What I did do was fix things I knew they enjoyed with every meal and then require that they try at least a taste of every dish. 

The trial month passed and we felt so good and enjoyed the new recipes so much we just kept rolling with it.  We did, however, choose the middle option above of using the recipes and lifestyle as a good resource for a well-balanced diet, but do include occasional meats and dairy. 

Many of the recipes in the FOK Plan book, FOK recipe book, and other resources I had ordered made execellent contributions to our dinner table whether they were the main course or a side dish paired with meat or dessert. This experience has also exposed our family to many new flavors. While we are not purist tee-totalers, these recipes have definitely set our family on a better track to health and wellness. 

At my August birthday, my mom wondered what I wanted for a present. I requested a pre-order of the FOK Family cookbook. I was certain this would be the key component to getting our children on board. I envisioned glowing healthy children happily eating copious amounts of leafy greens and vegetable dishes. It was a warm fuzzy mental picture, to be sure.

Fast  forward to the cookbook’s release date this past weekend. I received the email saying the order had been shipped and would arrive Tuesday. Oh the delight! 

I put off creating dinner menus until the book arrived, convinced it would offer solutions to all the hang-ups we’d had so far. I watched for the mail delivery truck like a child expecting Santa Claus. 

Finally, late afternoon, the truck arrived with the coveted present in tow. I ripped open the box and devoured the recipes on each page, wondering which ones to try first. 

I chose the Samosa Muffin Cups, a cornmeal-based muffin stuffed with seasoned cooked potatoes and onions, and a Kale/Israeli Couscous salad. The children love couscous so this was sure to be a hit. 

The husband and I enjoyed both recipes, but the children picked at the muffins with little to no interest. The boy doesn’t like onions, so I told him he could pick them out. Still to no avail. No amount of coaxing was going to impress their palates. 

On to the kale and couscous salad. The girl (now 5 years old) ate the salad under obligatory measures, saying she liked the couscous but not the rest of the ingredients. 

The boy (who turns 8 today) took one spoonful and began making guttural cave-man sounds. I took this as a sign of pleasure and started beaming with delight, but my ecstasy was short-lived when his face turned bright red, then an odd shade of green. 

We were in trouble.

“Run!” I said. “Run outside and spit it in the yard!” The grunting and other-worldly sounds were now accompanied by  closed-mouth dry heaves, like a cat trying to cough up a hair ball. “Run!” I repeated. 

The incident ended with dinner alternatives for the children and a delicious double-dark-mostly-plant-based chocolate cake to celebrate the boy’s birthday. 

The truth is, all I want is for us as a family to be as healthy as possible without becoming so legalistic and rigid that mealtimes become a chore. We choose to eat as a family around the table as often as possible and we use that time to build conversation skills and our family. If that means that sometimes those conversations happen around meat and dairy, so be it. One thing for certain, the “family-friendly” kale and couscous salad will be reserved for days when I pack lunch for myself. 

Onward and upward, dear friends. May the kale be with you. 

Rainy Day Ramblings

The day started with a basket full of love and happiness.


It was a lovely rainy day, the kind that inspires me to bake unnecessary confections and get into various other forms of tom-foolery.

But mostly I worked on the upcoming 5/K Run/Walk for The Sadie Rose Foundation and sang songs and played games with the Eli and Elsie.

One of our new favorite “rediscovered” songs is “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd,” by the late great Roger Miller. You know, you can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind too.” We like making up new lyrics. For example…


You can’t take a nap in a mandolin case, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind too.

The kids had yummy strawberry banana smoothies and I made juice for myself from these…


We watched a Christmas video, made sausage and vegetable Quiche for supper and then I had meeting this evening.

Six years ago on Saturday, June 23, we gathered in the back corner of Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren cemetery to lay to rest our precious infant daughter, our sweet Sadie Rose. This year, Sunday, June 23, I will be licensed to the ministry at that same church nestled in the beautiful Beaver Creek community of the Shenandoah Valley. I did not put together the significance of being licensed on the day of our daughter’s funeral until I was driving home from my meeting this evening.

Yes random rainy day thoughts to be sure, but sweet, beautiful thoughts of faith, family and community.

One more picture just in case you haven’t had enough cuteness yet and a quote to ponder. “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.” Soren Kierkegaard.


Why God Made Thistles

Our 3-year-old son walked up to the screen door today and whimpered softly, “Mom, why did God make thistles?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied, having often wondered myself why God made nuisances such as thistles, bats, mosquitoes,  mice, and well, you get the picture.

I gathered Eli in my lap. He still upset from planting a bare foot squarely into a sprawling “sticker” in our back yard so I determined to help him find a purpose for the pain. We set out to learn more how thistles affect our environment. What we found was a lot of advertising for “wild thistle honey.”

Aha, there it was. The teachable moment I was looking for. Apparently beekeepers often place hives near patches of uncontrolled thistle plants in the fall of the year and voilà, sweet molasses-like honey abounds.

I explained to Eli how thistles are food for birds and bees and how that helps the bees produce honey. Then, to myself, I thought, “It’s interesting how something that causes a little pain can produce such sweet results. Kind’ve like life it we allow it to be so.”

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