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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)

TITLE: Love 'Em While You Got 'Em
By Pam Carlson-Hetland


IdaMae looked up from weeding her vegetables at the ruckus in the neighboring yard. The dogs were barking, the twins were running, and a harried mother was trying to corral them all. With a twinkle in her eye, she strolled over to the fence to observe.

“Looks like you have your hands full, Sara.” IdaMae called out to her plump, pink-cheeked neighbor.

“I’m sorry if we’ve disturbed you, IdaMae.” Sara said as she waddled to the fence and leaned heavily on it.

“You didn’t...just reminds of me of raisin’ my own kids. How’re you feeling? Everything OK with the baby?”

“I’m fine, baby’s fine. But my house is a disaster. The kids have had a cold all week and I’ve kept them inside. As you can see, they’re feeling better.” Sara chuckled.

“Can I help?” IdaMae offered.

“Thanks, but no. I just need some quiet time to create some order and clear my brain.” Sara answered with a sigh. “You can give me some advice, though. You raised a big family, right?”

IdaMae nodded.

“With the twins being four now and a new baby on the way, how do I do all this–keep the house clean, do the meals and laundry, all that. How do I prioritize?”

IdaMae reached over the fence to hug her tired, young neighbor. “The best advice I can give you is to love ‘em while you got ‘em. They’re gone before you know it, Sara. As tired as you are right now, this is the best time to teach them. You have their ears and eyes and hearts now more than you ever will again. Teach them that Jesus loves them and to love Him right back, teach them right from wrong and to respect and love other people. Just kiss their faces, tell them you love them, and spend time with them. They grow so fast. There will always be dirty dishes and laundry, Sara. But your children will only be small once. Learn to accept help for those other things.”

“Thanks, IdaMae. I know you’re right. It just gets overwhelming sometimes.”

“Now, Sara, if you’d been cooped up all week being sick, what would you want to do?”

“I’d want to play outside.” Sara laughed.

“That’s right. And I just happen to have a fresh batch of cookies and some lemonade that could go to the park with a couple of frisky fellas and a tired mama. How about that?”

“Thank you, IdaMae. I’m going to take your offer.” Sara smiled broadly.

Within a few minutes, IdaMae was handing a bag of good smelling cookies and a thermos of lemonade to Sara as she drove away with an excited carload of kids and dogs. A pile of toys and a book for Sara lay on the seat next to her. IdaMae waved and turned back to her porch.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a small creature dart behind the house. “Don’t you dare get into my petunias again!” And the chase was on. One hyperactive terrier had swooped into IdaMae’s yard with every intention of digging in the flower garden. However, IdaMae was prepared...she had a cookie in her pocket. With a little enticement, she had a firm grasp on the intruder’s collar. One phone call later and a very apologetic neighbor came immediately to fetch the pest.

“IdaMae, I am so sorry!” Janet said as she tried to control the little dog.

“You look exhausted.” IdaMae observed. “Come...sit a spell and have some lemonade. What’s been happening lately?”

Janet went into a lengthy explanation of how her mother had fallen and broken a hip. She just couldn’t live alone anymore. Janet and her husband, Jim, had made a bedroom for her at their home. And at the same time, Jim’s father was admitted to a nursing home. Caring for their elderly parents was overwhelming at times.

“You took care of your mother until she passed away, didn’t you, IdaMae? What advice can you give me?”

With compassion in her eyes, IdaMae answered: “Well, you learn to accept help where you can find it. Remind them that Jesus loves them and you do, too. Hug them, respect them, spend time with them, and let them know they’re valuable. But, the best advice I can give you is to love ‘em while you got ‘em. They’re gone before you know it.”

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This article has been read 1014 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/08
I want IdaMae as a neighbor. What a wise woman she is. Her advice is exactly what is needed. I love the twist your story took with the same advice applicable. Great job.
Sally Hanan03/15/08
I really like your character because her neighbors know that she cares and they are the ones asking her for advice, she's not doling it out judgmentally.
Mo 03/15/08
Liked how the same advice applies in both situations (& it's so true!)
Kristen Hester03/20/08
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR EC!!!! I can not believe I have not already left a comment on this! It's so touching and real-to-life. I love IdaMae and hope to see her more. Perhaps she's the MC in your first novel. I wish she were my neighbor. I could use her help today! Blessings!
Shelley Ledfors 03/20/08
This story touched me deeply. It is so very true! I absolutely love how you brought in both ends of the spectrum. We hear advice like IdaMae gave often in relation to the young ones, but not so much toward the elders. Wow...this brought back memories. I'd never really thought of it in those terms before but I dealt with both ends at once. When my son was 4 & 5 I took care of my MIL here at our home in her final 10 months. Only by the grace of the Lord! Congrats on a well deserved EC!!!
Sara Harricharan 03/20/08
Glad I didn't miss this one. It's so good. The message here is one I need to remember with my crazy 'life'. I love the character of IdaMae and especially how she is able to help all of them in her own special way and to understand what they're going through. This is sort of bittersweet for me. Happy to know that you have the chance to love them, sad because you only have them for a little while. Excellent writing. ***Congrats on your EC!***
Loren T. Lowery03/20/08
Pam, congratulations on placing with this wonderful piece...well deserved. It reminds of of the latest Kenny Chesney hit, "Don't Blink" And, after reading it, it reminds me a bit of my grandmother. Congratulations, again - Loren
Joanne Sher 03/20/08
Just lovely, Pam, and touching. I want IdaMae next door too. Wonderful - and congratulations.
Debbie Wistrom03/20/08
I can see why this wonderful entry made EC, GREAT job of hitting both spectrums of a full life. THANKS!
Sheri Gordon03/20/08
Congratulations on your EC. You've created a very endearing character. Hope we see her again.
Edy T Johnson 03/22/08
Pam, I'm just so proud of you and your Masters-level writing. Somewhere I read that no life experience is ever wasted on a writer, because it is always material for the book! God bless you with enough "breaks" for writing time that your joy-filled heart will sail through the life-load of "material" you can't help collecting.

IdaMae is a terrific example of somebody making use of all that experience!
Catrina Bradley 03/24/08
What a wonderful neighbor, and a delightful tale. Congratulations on your EC!
Lynn Jacky 04/03/08
Hi Pam: Congratulations. This is exactly what I need to read. Thank you for sharing excellent writing. In the common and ordinary we can share our faith by how we live our lives, with those around us. Wonderful example and story.
Koula Amling04/12/08
This story touched me. I'm a stay at home mom withthree kids under age 5. Ida Mae's talking to me! She's talking to everyone. How beautiful!