A Toast from the Mother of the Groom

When my son asked me to give a toast at his wedding reception I knew it would be emotional. After all, I had been battling random tears and joyful sobs since my baby became engaged.

How did he get here?

Grown up.

Married.

It goes way back actually. I think it started about the time of potty training!

Oh yes. I remember that moment when he decided to go in the potty like a big boy. So proud of him. Learning and growing and making good choices is hard work!

Some days were more difficult than others. Because learning to choose is so hard, from time to time we offered a reward.

His favorite? Matchbox Cars.

How proud he was to stand in front of that great big toy aisle. His little eyes scanned the huge selection. His tiny finger pointed as he said, “Mommy, I want that one!”

And my baby boy continued to grow.

Ready for Kindergarten now. How could it be? So proud of him. Learning and growing and ready to make good choices with the help of other teachers.

This was a big step. He would need a backpack.

He was so proud to stand in the Back-to-School aisle. His nervous eyes examined the display. He knew how important this moment was. This one choice would carry everything he needed between school and home every day! And as his finger pointed he said, ” Mommy, I want that one!”

And my little boy continued to grow.

Those school years passed by so fast. He did such a fine job, my son. We were so proud that he found a job and learned to be responsible.

One day  he announced he had found  a car he wanted to buy. He had saved his own money. He wanted to buy it himself.  As we drove into the lot, his eyes beamed with pride. His finger pointed as he said, “Mom, I want that one!”

Oh. How he did grow, my boy.

And the time? It continued to pass. He came home one day with a girl. She was lovely and sweet. I watched them grow closer together. I could see them learning about each other. I could see love grow in their eyes.

In time, my son looked at this girl with eyes filled with deep love.

He knew.

And I knew.

He proudly said, “Mom, I want that one!”

And so here we are. My little boy has become a man. And after a lifetime of learning to choose, we are so proud!

Here’s to “the one”!

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Cor. 13:11-13

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:3

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A Closer Look at the Book: Grasshopper Bubblegum

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Grandma and Grandpa lived on a dairy farm just a few miles from home. We were fortunate to spend many days on their farm throughout the 70s and early 80s. Playing on the farm was always an adventure. Working on the farm became a delightful chore.

Grandma was creative. With lots of grandkids running around she had to be on top of things. There was plenty to do to keep busy, but Grandma was a genius for encouraging us to be productive in our play. She had many clever incentives to inspire this productivity and keep us out of her hair!

Some of my favorites?

Climbing to the very top of the tree for the best mulberries. Sometimes we even took a sandwich and a jug or canteen of water up with us, just in case we wanted to gather berries through the lunch hour.

Filling buckets with thistle was a thrill. We got to cross the road (by ourselves) and hike out far from the house. We were sure we were even out of Grandma’s perfect sight! Grandma offered a penny per thistle in the bucket upon our return. No matter how long it took, our buckets were always full.

And of course I will never forget the garden chores as described in Grasshopper Bubblegum.  Filling our jar with grasshoppers. Trading grasshoppers for Grandma’s pennies. And walking into town to purchase bubblegum.

I wonder if she knew the true value of her pennies. I wonder if she knew these seeds she had planted would grow crops of wisdom, ingenuity, work ethic, problem solving, cooperation, patience, sharing…

These were her true gifts. They are priceless. And she shared them with me.

If you would like to know more about Grasshopper Bubblegum visit my website http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com

I would love to hear from you! Until then…

Keep up your good work,

Shelly Simoneau

A Closer Look at the Book: Snake Tree

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Mother and Daddy love to fish on the Neosho River not far from home. Back in the 80s they had quite a story to tell when they returned from a day of fishing . I listened to that story. I soaked up the details. And I remembered it. Now I pass Snake Tree on to others.

Why did I remember this story that Daddy told?

Was it the excitement and thrill of a threatening snake? Or the humor of Mother climbing up into the tree? Maybe it was the suspense of Daddy fending off the snake with his pole, like a sword, as it slithered closer and closer to the boat?

These were all captivating details for me. But it was the hidden meanings, the deeper message, that drew me in.

Stories that carry forward a deeper message have a projective purpose. An impact.

I remembered the story because of its impact.

Connections. Rich lessons. This shared story continued its offering beyond its telling.

Respect of nature.

Importance of attentiveness.

Value of cooperation.

And the big one… There really are ‘snakes’ in this big world trying to get into people’s ‘boats’.

The Snake Tree has become a true place for my family. Like a family landmark. A reference point when we talk about the river.

It’s a landmark we can return to. A landmark we can learn from. It’s like a really good story.

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If you would like to learn more about this book visit http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com

You can also find me on Facebook. I would love to hear from you! Until then…

Share Your Stories!

Shelly Simoneau

A Closer Look at the Book: Tinker in the Tanker

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Daddy worked a new job in the winter of 1979. After losing his business in a devastating fire (Daddy Was A Carpenter) he and Mother had to take new jobs to make ends meet.

And so began an unexpected journey for our family.

It was adventurous.

It was unfamiliar.

It was hard.

But I thought my parents were heroes. I could see the struggle, yet I knew everything was going to be okay. Why? Because we believed.

Daddy drove a milk truck for Fairmont Creamery in Council Grove, Kansas. As we had done before, Sister and I took turns going to work with Daddy. This story is the memory of my turn.

I had seen my daddy work hard, putting in long hours.

I had seen my daddy finish the job he was responsible to do.

I had seen my daddy’s courage, even through the dark times.

On this trip? It would be my turn.

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If you would like to know more about this book visit http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com

I would love to hear from you! Until then remember…

You can do anything!

Shelly Simoneau

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Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

A Closer Look at the Book: Daddy Was A Carpenter

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Sometime the middle of the night, at some point in the Spring of 1977, Mother woke us.

She was hurried.

She was serious.

Something was wrong.

I learned about loss that night. I would get to know the feelings of hardship. It would be the first time I had ever seen my daddy cry.

Prior to that night, our family had been enjoying a season of splendor. Days were filled with much laughter. Much joy. Even as a very young child I could see the value of hard work. I witnessed a community, working together, building the Wilsey Lumber Yard strong. It was a time of rejoicing. Of giving thanks.

And then suddenly, in the dark of night, began a season of sorrow. Daddy’s business became a smoldering heap of ash.

This new moment? Confusion. Disbelief. An abrupt introduction to mourning.

These are the devastations we could choose to stash away and forget.

Forget the tears.

Forget the loss.

Forget the ashes.

But what if we choose to remember? What if we choose to share the disappointments that make us cry? What if we choose to share those memories that we would rather forget?

That moment, the memory, becomes truly significant.

And we can be changed.

And those ashes? They can become a song of hope. Yes. In their own way, they can become beautiful.

If you would like to know more about this story visit http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com

I would love to hear from you. Until then…

Always Hope,

Shelly Simoneau

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A Closer Look at the Book: Wash Creek

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Growing up on the farm meant spending a lot of time outdoors. A favorite place to explore and do the work of children was at the creek. Elm Creek runs just an easy walk down the gravel road from the house.

My sisters and I spent time there in every season.

Sometimes we would find the creek bed all dried up. We hunted for fossils and bones and looked for signs of creek life.

Sometimes the water was covered with ice and snow. We dug through the snow with sticks and broke the ice with rocks.

Sometimes the water flowed freely and the sound was so gentle and peaceful. We just stretched out on a big slab of rock and soaked up the sun and the silence.

Occasionally, after heavy rains, the water ran high and fast. I feared the creek on those days, and kept my distance.

Our friends loved the creek too, joining us on our hikes, enjoying the pampering of a picnic, wading in the cool water, and skipping rocks. If the water was low enough we leaped across, back and forth. (We would often return home with a muddy foot or two!)

The name of this special place changed for me after a very memorable father-daughter moment in the late 70s. On that rainy day, Daddy and I stood together in the rising creek. I was scared of the water. But Daddy beckoned me to trust him there. He gave me an opportunity to overcome a fear.

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He reached out and held my hand that day, and all my fear was washed away. In its place came joy and dancing and laughter.

In my heart this old familiar Elm Creek was a new place. I called it Wash Creek.

That day I believed I would be able to accomplish just about anything. Some of those things would be hard and feel dangerous. Some of those things I would not completely understand. But I would not have to be afraid to step out and try. That memorable day I was filled with confidence, joy, and trust.

You can find more information about this book and others on my website www.shellysimoneaustories.com and my page http://www.facebook.com/ShellySimoneauStories. I would love to hear from you!

Joy and Laughter,

Shelly Simoneau

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P.S. Many times over the course of my childhood I recall my parents turning around at the creek. Why? Because the water was not safe to cross. I was able to trust Daddy that day because he had proven his wisdom in his previous actions. Be safe. Turn around. Don’t drown.

A Closer Look at the Book: The Cows Came Running and the Horses Did Too!

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I’ll be sharing a closer look at all my books over the next couple of weeks, as I prepare for the Kansas Book Festival in Topeka, Kansas. The Cows Came Running and the Horses Did Too! was my very first book, released in 2011. The story is based on a 1970s childhood memory that takes place on our humble family farm in Wilsey, Kansas.

I love this story because of its strong connection to just about everyone! It is a story of a dad who says no. His daughters, however, do not listen.

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Ouch! It’s true. I disobeyed my father when I was growing up!

Who doesn’t relate to that?

The best part about this memory is what I got to keep from it over all these years. I gained a rich learning experience of honesty, respect, and responsibility.

And let’s not forget about those natural consequences!

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Find out more about this story at http://www.shellysimoneaustories.com and then share you own story of how you learned that big lesson as a child.

Always Learning,

Shelly Simoneau

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. – Eph. 6:1

The Last First Day!

When we were very young, Mother greeted us with warm cookies as we arrived home after the first day of school. Sister and I were still brimming with energy, even after a long day of school work and new routine. Fresh cookies were the perfect invitation to sit for a bit and share together pieces of our day apart from one another. I remember the sweet memory of feeling full.

Not just full from Mother’s delicious cookies.

Full of joy. Full of happiness. Full of love.

It has been many years since my own children were little. They too were welcomed home with a plate of warm cookies after those delightful first days. They recall the excitement of our simple tradition and the joy of sharing. They too were filled.

Filled with conversation. Filled with laughter. Filled with love.

There was plenty of time.

Today our youngest began his first day of his last year of high school. The last little one all grown up. The moment is already a memory.

And that time for the simplest joys? Where has it gone?

He’s looking ahead now. He’s preparing to move on. He’s not always in a hurry to come home and share his day.

But today, this last first day, I’ll have this plate of cookies waiting.

An invitation.

Come home.

Let’s sit for a bit.

Let’s share some time.

Let’s be filled.

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Peanut Butter 1-1-1 Cookies

Mix 1 egg, 1 cup peanut butter,  and 1 cup sugar together. Use a small cookie scoop to drop dough onto a baking pan. Press with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350. Cool and Enjoy!

Please Share the Caprese!

One of my favorite summer flavors is sweet basil. Every year I explore new ways to freshen up a dish with this sweet wonder to enjoy with my family, or friends, or both!

20150718_142439-1As you can see, my basil patch is just starting to shoot up. It has been an unusually wet summer in Kansas. The excessive rainfall and flooding has wreaked havoc on my garden! I am delighted to see the basil has survived and is starting to thrive.

Just in time, actually! I thinned the young plants recently and prepared a delicious caprese pasta salad to share with my Monday night ladies’ Bible study group. Several of the ladies asked for the recipe, so here it is!

pasta_120811I started with 2 cups of cooked pasta. My children always loved the bow tie variety when they were littles, so I kept with that nostalgia. After draining the excess water, I coated the pasta lightly with olive oil and stirred in a bit of salt and pepper. Next, I prepared a creamy dressing, stirring together about 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. You can use more or less of either ingredient to your own liking. I then stirred the dressing and pasta together and let it chill in the fridge while I prepared the key caprese ingredients: basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella!

sun-dried_121351I love to use fresh cherry tomato halves for this salad, but my tomato plants have struggled through this soggy Kansas season. I opted instead for a handful of tangy sun-dried tomatoes. These are handy to have in your pantry for quick substitutes. I just slivered them up and they were ready to go in the dish!

basil_120533I picked a handful of young basil to thin out my row in the garden and allow the other plants to grow bigger. These young plants are still packed with great flavor and I never let them go to waste. I tore the leaves into smaller pieces for this salad.

mozz_121933Of course fresh and creamy mozzarella is a must! I like to chop mine a little chunky. I folded the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella into the pasta salad and packed it for the church potluck.

The flavors had plenty of time to blend as we greeted each other with fellowship and prayer. This caprese pasta salad tasted delicious alongside other summer favorites, but could also stand alone as a quick and easy summer meal. Enjoy!

Always Look Back

Someone I hold very dear in my heart has gone home to be with the Lord. I loved her. She never knew my name, but she knew my heart. And though I never heard her speak the tender words, I know she loved me too.

I met my friend in a memory care unit. We visited weekly, sharing stories and laughter and tears. Our relationship grew from acquaintance to friendship to love.

While I spoke with words, she spoke mostly with her loving eyes, her warm smile, and the grasp of her hand.

So how do I know she loved me?

She always looked back.

Let me explain.

As a young child, growing up on the farm, my parents always reminded me of how fragile life can be. They taught me never to take for granted the time we have to spend with each other. We don’t know when our time here is complete, and we should take every opportunity to show our love for one another. One way to practice this was to simply remember to always look back.

Look back when you are leaving.

Look back and say I love you.

Look back and wave goodbye.

Look back with hugs and kisses.

Just look back.

I still practice this today. When I am leaving home I remember. When I am leaving my parents’ farm I remember. When I am leaving the memory ward I remember.

That’s how I know my friend loved me.

You see. We always found each other looking back.