Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Spring Plays Peek-a-Boo" published in YCN, May 2020

Photo by Stephen Hassler, editor of Your Country Neighbor

Spring Plays Peek-a-Boo
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

The weather is a popular topic for people all over the country, but I suspect Midwesterners can one-up most weather conversations.  In the Midwest we have four distinct seasons which change not only every few months but often several times a day. I’m not sure other parts of the country have those bragging rights.  

I was born in Arizona and my weather memories there range from sunny and warm to sunny and beastly hot. I remember one December there was a trace of snow that melted immediately. Everybody in the neighborhood was outside snapping black and white photos.  

Here in the Midwest we know what to expect from three out of four of the seasons. In summer it’s hot or stormy. In fall it’s crisp and beautiful or rainy and gray. In winter it’s long, cold, and can be measured in inches.  

During winter there can be a day or two of spring-like weather, usually in February. Then the next day a blizzard strikes and people grumble because they had false hope that it would be spring soon. But spring plays games with us. All through March and April it peeks in to make an appearance… and then winter hip-bumps it off the stage. Spring doesn’t give up. It sneaks around the curtain and tries to steal the spotlight, until jealous winter notices again. The game is on!  

In spring people are excited to plant flowers and gardens, but don’t be fooled! There’s a rule that I’ve ignored too often: wait until after Mother’s Day to do the planting. I’ve thought that a few warm days in a row were the start of spring. Time to plant my geraniums and put away the parkas! Two days later, “Wrong again,” I think, making a mad dash to bring in the flowers and dig out the coats.  

I’ve seen people leave the house in shorts and flip flops in March and April after a couple nice days, thinking it would be hot by noon. Nope! At the end of the day they come home to make soup and wear fuzzy socks with flannel pj’s for a few more nights.    

Even nature gets fooled. The daffodils and crocuses rise up demanding to be the first to show off
their finery, only to get hit by frost and slump miserably to the ground. Robins return, grow round-bellied, and start to build nests. Then bam! They get slammed by a snow shower and huddle together glaring, as if to say, “Whose idea was it to come back this early?!”        

I truly feel sorry for them. Mother Nature leads them astray year after year. Birds are so gullible.

Click here to see Your Country Neighbor's May edition online

Friday, May 29, 2020

Haibun published in May 2020 issue of YCN

Images of Corona: 
A modern haibun, which blends haiku images with prose 

Janet Sobczyk,  © 2020

Photos on Facebook 
creative ways to pass time 
connect with others.

Since we have to self-isolate and quarantine, people are trying to connect any way they can. We need to pass the time in constructive ways to avoid cabin fever. Parents are trying to work and school at home, and keep kids entertained. Social media has become more important than ever. Daily posts spread hope, provide news, and share photos of creative project ideas.

Restaurants are closed 
store shelves are bare, items rare, 
uncertainty reigns.

Going to the store feels like going into a war zone one minute and perfectly normal the next. Certain items are absent from shelves or in limited supply: toilet paper, Clorox wipes, tissues, rubber gloves, face masks. But other shelves look totally normal. In some aisles people may be casually shopping, keeping distance. In others there might be a dash and struggle for the last of something. Questions hover… so far the food supply is holding up, but for how long?

People at home cook 
have more time and less fast food 
eat meals together.

For modern American families who were constantly on the go, this time of isolation is a rare opportunity to slow down and enjoy cooking again. Or simply enjoy eating dinner together again… at a table instead of in the car dashing somewhere. It’s the silver lining of this pandemic.

Images on news 
rows of caskets, no mourners, 
waiting to be moved.

The photos from Italy and China, and even around the US, are chilling. Patients lie in rows on gurneys in crowded hospitals. Freezer trucks are parked at the back doors to hold those who pass because mortuaries are overflowing. Rows of plain wooden caskets, mass produced in a hurry, are full and waiting for cremation. Services can’t be attended by groups of mourning families and friends. Funerals have become small private affairs with little closure and no comfort. Shock chokes onlookers into silence.

Turn off the TV 
gather on couches to pray 
hope death passes by.

It feels like we’re Israelites during the first Passover, trying to escape the plague. They huddled in homes with lambs blood on their doorposts, hearing the wails of Egyptian mourners, praying to be spared.

Springtime… grass greens up 
bushes bud, flowers bloom and
 sunshine gives us hope.

We can’t dwell on the fear for long without going crazy. Thank goodness corona came as winter is ending. People and pets are taking walks to enjoy spring weather and to clear dark thoughts. Evidence of new life keeps us going. Look around. People are still getting married, babies are still being born. Nature gives us hope.

Click here to view the May 2020 online edition of Your Country Neighbor

Saturday, April 4, 2020

"Immigrant Dandelions" Published in Your Country Neighbor, April 2020

This beautiful sculpture stood in the Joslyn Museum's indoor fountain for many years,
then it was transplanted to an Omaha Public Library lobby where I took this photo.
I'm not sure what the artist intended, but it looks like a dandelion to me! 
Immigrant Dandelions
by Janet Sobczyk, 2018

They arrived, precious cargo
in the baggage of colonists
settling America
with high hopes for the future.

They emerged from careful wrappings
were planted, nurtured
used as food, medicine
and to prevent erosion.

Native Americans
learned their value
saw their versatility
appreciated their uses.

Now they are reviled
a blight on manicured lawns
weeds to be eradicated
by hand or chemical.

They defy extinction
multiplying quickly
migrating across the land
on gusts of untamed wind.

Little children are their allies
still blowing seeds
offering yellow blossoms
with innocent smiles.

Valued plant
or invasive pest
depends on your perspective
what does your eye behold?

Monday, March 23, 2020

"Envisioning Forgiveness" published today

My personal narrative was posted on today. I was blown away by the beautiful photos they found that illustrate this piece perfectly. Thanks, Braided Way staff!

And thank you, editor Laura Grace Weldon, for your kind words, "We hope the generous spirit shown in your work is a comfort to our readers."

You can read the entire piece here: Envisioning Forgiveness or go to

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: 


© 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:  capt