Thursday, February 13, 2020

"Checkmate in Church" published in a new book


Just in time for Valentine's Day... the story of how Tom and I met. 💗


Thanks, Yvonne Lehman, for including another of my stories in your latest book. 🥰
Click here to see Romantic Moments on Amazon. $16.99

Monday, February 10, 2020

"The Powdered Sugar Donut" published

This poem about love was published in the Feb. 2020 issue of Your Country Neighbor. The photo only appears here.

The Powdered Sugar Donut ❤
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020



She didn’t know
how could she? 
of my aversion


powdered sugar donuts
so sweet 
too sweet in fact

puff of powder 
‘tween teeth 
makes me shiver

fine white flakes 
dust shirt 
stick to fingers

but more than textures
the memory 
vivid from youth

my half-eaten donut
filled with 
tiny black ants!

still don’t touch ‘em
how could I? 
why would I?

until special daughter 
picks one 
smiling just for me.


how could I not?
innocent eyes 
I eat it for love.




Saturday, February 8, 2020

"I Just Want to Hibernate" published

This article was published in the Feb. 2020 issue of Your Country Neighbor, but the photo is only shared here.

My Midwest-born kids enjoying winter (almost 20 years ago!) 

It happens every year. During the months of January to March I just want to hibernate. I was born in Arizona, uprooted at age 4 for relocation to Iowa, and have struggled with winter ever since. Well, in my youth I thought snow was pretty fun sometimes, but I always dreaded the cold. When I became old enough to drive in it, snow entirely lost its appeal. And now that I’m nearing the retirement years, I can barely tolerate it.

I read something, can’t remember where, that encouraged humans to embrace our inner urge to hibernate. It made it sound like a natural inclination as a way to get through fewer hours of daylight, so why fight it? It reinforced my desire for stews, carbs, blankets, and more zzz’s. It made me feel “normal” while living amongst hardy Midwesterners born and raised in this climate.

I hoped to locate that source to quote it for this article, but I couldn’t find it. Instead my internet search yielded a staggering array of articles on hibernation. They were all fascinating and sometimes totally opposed to each other.
 

Several articles linked our desire to hibernate to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and gave a long list of symptoms and how to cope. Actually, I found those very helpful. Other articles mentioned “cabin fever,” but in general they suggested we fight the urge to sleep more or overeat.

Some experts say that humans have a latent ability to hibernate when given the right conditions, like less light and cooler temperatures (a.k.a. winter). There are examples of humans who survived avalanches (in one case in Japan up to 24 days!) because their bodies responded with hibernation-like responses. Some scientists say extended hibernation in humans is impossible because our hearts lack the animal hibernators’ ability to pump excess calcium out of our systems when asleep for long periods. And they warn that extended sleep affects brain function and memory, not in a good way.

Other articles explained how mastering hibernation could be helpful. In fact, hospitals already use medically-induced comas to help patients survive horrendous injuries. The comas usually involve cooling down the blood stream, which mimics hibernation.

Ideas for human hibernation can be out of this world. Literally. Scientists are researching how to induce hibernation for space travel. Sci-fi movies make it look easy but it’s complicated. There are always after-effects of traveling in space and returning to gravity. With hibernation there are also immunity and organ issues that can be life-threatening. Imagine losing a whole crew of hibernating humans after they awaken.

I was fascinated as well as repulsed by the ideas and methods being explored. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? NASA scientists seem to think so because they continue to search for answers. But count me off the guinea pig list for those research studies. I can barely survive a Midwest winter.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

"My Van Has White Coat Syndrome" published


This article was published in Your Country Neighbor, Jan. 2020: 

IMG_2993

© 2019 by Janet Sobczyk, 

It’s a common complaint. You’ve been feeling sick or something hurts, but by the time you actually get to a doctor, you feel better. That’s called White Coat Syndrome (WCS). Actually, doctors use that term more specifically for elevated blood pressure while in the doctor’s office. But the first definition is the one most other people think it means.

People are the most prone to WCS, but I’ve seen pets have it too. Fido might seem on his last legs at home, but as soon as you pull up to the vet clinic, he hops right out and trots in like, “Look at me. I’m fine.”

My van now has it. I’m not kidding! The other day it started making a horrible sound all the way home from work. For 30 minutes it rattled so loud I thought a front tire was going to fall off. Except the sound wasn’t coming from the wheel area. And it made a metallic “ding, ding” sound like a chain swinging and hitting metal. I made an appointment with the mechanic for the next morning and prayed I’d make it there intact.

You guessed it.The next morning the big sound was gone. And the ding-ding, too. But I took it in anyway and described what had happened. An hour later they ended my waiting-room misery (whoever chose CNN for that TV was sadistic!) and told me they’d found nothing wrong. Of course!

Then the mechanic reassured me that old vehicles do have a lot of rattles. Well, I guess a 16-year-old vehicle does qualify as old. Maybe I was over-reacting. And then he told me that next time they would need more detail, like at what speed does it make the sound? Or when you turn in which direction? Really, it just made the awful, death-sounds the whole way home. But that was yesterday, and today it seemed just fine. Good! I had errands to run.

The van ran perfectly (with only its usual rattles) all the rest of that day. But the next day, yep! The noises returned, complete with ding-dings. Maybe I’ll have to call a driveway mechanic who can sneak up on the van and check it out before it knows what’s happening.

Image from Creative Commons:  capthttps://live.staticflickr.com/3108/2658510318_8421f09541_m.jpgion

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"The Year Christmas Came Before Advent" Published


This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of "Your Country Neighbor."

The Year Christmas Came Before Advent
by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

(This photo of our Advent wreath wasn't submitted with the article.)

Recently I was perusing the holiday section of a children’s library and noticed there are so many picture books about some character or another saving Christmas. The message seems to be that humans (and animal characters, too) will go to great lengths to make sure Santa comes. The last illustration usually shows the character who did the saving, surrounded by smiling loved ones. 

That is the real message. Christmas is saved when people can be with their loved ones. Preserving traditions around important holidays keeps families bonded together. But what happens when family members can’t make it home for the holiday? Often times the answer is to move the date. With tight work schedules and travel from long distances many families opt to celebrate a holiday on the weekend before or after the actual date. And that’s perfectly fine. 

When my siblings and I grew up we all settled in different states: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado. My brother who is now in Colorado was in the Air Force, so his state changed several times through the years. 

In the early years we still managed (or attempted) to get together for Christmas with my parents. I remember one of the last years we all gathered at their house, bad weather was an issue. Everyone from close states made it, but my sister from MN had to find a motel for refuge from the storm. 

Mom was so upset with the worry of everyone arriving safely that she couldn’t enjoy Christmas Eve at all. “We can’t start anything until she gets here” was her refrain as we tried to come up with things to do that evening. So, at the risk of one daughter missing out on a fun moment, the rest of us had a boring time. We did thoroughly enjoy Christmas Day together when she arrived the next morning. But the lesson I learned was to expect that these things can happen and just enjoy being with the ones who can be there. 

So now my own children are grown and some of them have to travel to get home for Christmas. I understand the worry of my mother better now. When the weather is bad, I’m inclined to say, “Stay put and enjoy whatever you can make of it, wherever you are. We can be together another day. It’s not worth risking lives.” 

Although weather can always be a factor, another issue that faces young married couples is finding ways to be with both sides of the family. That’s especially hard when the parents and the in-laws live in different states. It’s only fair to alternate, so that’s why three of our five children will not be home for Christmas this year. That’s okay. We just moved our celebration to another date. What’s important is that we can be together, right? Well, the only time that works for all of us this year is…. Thanksgiving weekend. 

We’ll have the big turkey dinner Thursday, shop and put up the tree on Black Friday, then have a ham dinner and presents on Saturday. It’s a perfectly logical plan, and I’m sure we’ll have a great time. But it strikes me as odd that we’ll be done with Christmas before the first day of Advent. 

By the time this December issue of Your Country Neighbor comes out, we’ll be done. As everybody else endures the crazy Christmas rush, we’ll be done. As people are busy wrapping gifts, ours have already been opened. 

Hearing Christmas carols throughout December might feel like hearing them in January. Enough already! Or maybe I’ll feel the way a friend predicted, “Just think. You’ll have time to sit back and enjoy the music and lights.” And the nativity set, with everything it symbolizes: family, faith, hope of salvation. Add some eggnog and Christmas movies and we’re good! 

"From Grief to Acceptance to Hope" Published

Buckets of Hope: Recovery from Grief and Loss

    My daughter's birth story has been published in this wonderful book by  Kat Crawford.

Buckets of Hope is about recovering from different types of losses and contains the inspirational stories of 26 writers, as well as Kat's own remarkable story of grief and recovery.

"From Grief to Acceptance to Hope" is my narrative about recovering from the shock and sense of loss at the birth of my youngest daughter (with special needs) to begin a wonderful journey of hope. 

Thank you, Kat, for inviting me to join your compilation project! 

It's available on Amazon for $10.99 paperback or $2.99 Kindle here:

"The Prank" Poem Published

This poem was published in the November 2019 issue of "Your Country Neighbor."

The Prank
by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

Plant a fragile sapling 
dig, settle in the dirt 
fill in, shore up 
enjoy over long seasons 
notice it growing 
unfolding into the sky 
delayed gratification at its finest. 

Plant a plastic skeleton 
dig, settle in the dirt 
build joists, lay the deck 
enjoy impossible anticipation 
for next homeowner to uncover 
maybe, someday 
delayed gratification most painful. 

Won’t it become Poe’s telltale heart 
lying under the deck 
rasping a dry call to be found? 
Won’t the prankster pry up one board 
show someone, anyone, everyone 
for a shocked look, appreciative chuckle? 
How could he not?


The inspiration for this poem was a Facebook post by “Dad Joke of the Day”: “Redoing the deck, so I went to Party City and purchased a skeleton. Now in 20 years when the new homeowner needs to redo the deck……” The picture showed a realistic-looking, plastic skeleton half-buried in the dirt under the joists of the new deck in mid-construction. Creepy!