500-Word report

500words_wide-e1388529158371I’m doing Jeff Goins’ 500-word-per-day challenge for January and promised I’d report in.

After day 12, I have logged 7,008 words and have several blog posts ready to go.

So far, so good. Hold me to it.


Hold me to this

I’m joining Jeff Goins’ challenge to write 500 words per day during January. I’d like to develop more consistent daily writing habits and this looks to be a good start.

I’ll post updates during the month. If all goes according to plan (and it always does, right?), I should have at least 15,000 words down on paper -well, on my hard drive – by the end of January and several blog posts in the queue.

Hold me to it!

The Christmas Pickle

Late on Christmas day, we bundled our family into the car and headed for a ski trip in the Colorado mountains.

The gift-giving had been trimmed back so that we could enjoy this ski outing but my husband wanted to do something special for the family during our travel that evening.

“Let’s stop at that nice steak house on the interstate,” he said.

So we did. They were closed. It was, after all, Christmas day.

Hmmm. We hadn’t thought of that so we continued to the next town and pulled in, thinking the Chinese restaurant there might work well.


We were starting to get a clue, finally. But we had five kids in the car and the Christmas cookies were wearing off. They were restless.

“Let’s try a fast-food place.” My husband had set his heart on a special mealtime family gathering but his stomach was growling, too.


Grocery stores were closed. Walmart was closed.

We were about to inventory old snacks left in coat pockets when my husband spotted a 7-Eleven convenience store.

We turned the kids loose. “Find something to eat.”

Because there’s virtually nothing healthy in a snack place like that, the kids were not bound to a balanced meal. They grabbed chips and popcorn and gallons of fountain drinks.

Their parents have felt guilty for years for not having enough foresight to avoid such a disappointment. We wanted to give them a nice steak dinner but instead offered candy bars and peanuts.

But I have been assured by our older son not to worry.

“I got a fistful of dill pickles,” he said. “Best Christmas dinner ever!”

Gift Wrapped

I admire those people who wrap their gifts with crisp corners and elegant bows. Those Christmas settings with deep red and green boxes under the tree, shimmering in style and beauty, inspire me.

I just can’t wrap like that.

When I get out the roll of wrapping paper, I can’t cut it straight. Plus, I end up with all this extra paper that gets hacked off. Yeah, it looks that way.

The idea is that I can turn the edges under and still have a nice gift wrap.

Huh. Somehow mine come out like they were first tossed under the delivery truck. Extra tape doesn’t help, either. I’ve tried that.

When gift bags came in vogue, I was all over that. Just stuff the tissue paper in there and I look like Martha Stewart, right?

Not right. I can’t stuff the paper elegantly, either.

My family has adjusted. On one of my husband’s birthday, the first gift came to him in a cute red “Happy birthday” gift bag. He fished out his gift, set the bag aside, and thanked the child responsible.

Then came his next gift from child #2 – in the red “Happy birthday” gift bag. Child #2 had snatched it, scurried to the kitchen and re-loaded it.

The birthday guy got four different gifts that evening in the same birthday bag. Talk about creative recycling on the run.

Some Christmas bags have been re-used so many times they’re part of the tradition. “Oh, you’re getting the Nutcracker bag. Who had it last year?” We use a marker to cross out last year’s name and add the current recipient to the list.

I may stop crossing out names because we’ve had so much fun recalling the bag’s history.

But my family has also descended to slap-your-hand kind of gift-wrapping. The operative question every birthday is, “Do you want your gift now or do you want it wrapped?’

We’re an impatient bunch. We accept gifts double-wrapped in Walmart bags. We snatch gifts from under a newspaper umbrella. We are happy to open a brown box – especially if the outside of the box doesn’t match the inside.

We figure the point is to disguise the gift as long as possible.

Just don’t tell Martha Stewart.

Donut danger

We’d found a small church with many children and a huge box of donuts available before the worship service began. Our 5-year-old son thought we’d found heaven.

He had a free rein after Sunday school to play with his friends and sample the donuts.

When the service began, he joined us but, before the second song, he headed back out of the church. His father followed and found him in the bathroom, heaving his breakfast.

“Are you OK?” my husband asked.

He was. He washed his face, straightened his shoulders, and nodded.

“What happened? Are you sick?”

Our son shook his head. “No, I ate too many donuts.”

“How many did you eat?”


His father laughed. “Wow. So did you learn anything from this little episode?”

“Yep,” he said. “Stop at six.”

How not to take a taxi in Cuba

We were sightseeing on our last morning in Havana, Cuba after spending a week of meetings and travel.

All week we had seen El Morro lighthouse and castle across the harbor and finally we found time to visit.

From our hotel, we hailed a government-approved taxi which drove us in a nice little Russian car to the parking lot of El Morro and promised to return in two hours to take us back to the hotel.

Promised. No problemo.

The tour went great. The hosts inside were friendly and helpful.

We bought a few trinkets and then headed out to the parking lot to wait for our promised hotel.

Yes, we knew the chances of him returning weren’t great but we didn’t have a backup plan so we waited.

Then three young Cuban men approached us. “Do you want souvenirs?” They pulled out a silver coin. “See? Che Guevera coin.”

My husband, no great historian unless it involves World War II fighter planes, shrugged.

“He’s a great man,” the young man insisted.

“Not interested.”

So the three men stepped away but stretching your neck and looking far down the street is probably a universal language. They quickly deduced we were waiting for a car.

“Do you need a ride? We have car. Cheap ride. Only $10.”

We’d paid $6 for the government-approved ride over so my husband wasn’t paying $10 to these guys. They tried to negotiate but finally agreed on $6.

The windows of the car were all rolled down and the driver rushed ahead to open the door. That was because you couldn’t use the outside handles. Clue one.

We climbed in and buckled up. There were no liners on the door panels and we could see all the rods running to locks and windows. We kept our hands to ourselves.

The little car scooted down the highway and then dropped into a tunnel under the harbor. As the car began to descend, the driver pushed in the clutch and turned off the engine. We coasted nearly to the other end of the tunnel.

I’ll bet he saved a tenth of a gallon of gas with that trick. Clue two.

He started the engine once gravity threatened to stall him, downshifted, and went right through a stop sign. I don’t know what the speed limit was but our driver obviously didn’t care. We did stay on all four wheels.

He cruised up to our hotel, double-parked out front in the narrow street, and shut off the engine again. Another tenth saved.

He jumped out to open our doors because apparently the inside latch on the doors needed a secret twist before they’d open.

We paid him. In that country, he may have just made half a month’s wages.

We’d just taken a unlicensed taxi ride with an illegal driver in a foreign country and we actually still had our possessions.

Travel is quite an adventure, isn’t it?