Thursday, November 28, 2013

The saga continues this season

So many people think I sell Christmas trees. Such an odd thing to think of someone, right?

The following is from last year's post about it...

This time of year, our phone rings off the hook. Why?

People think I sell Christmas trees.

Why would they think such a thing? Well, there is a simple explanation.

Many years ago (2007, I looked it up), I wrote an article for a local tree farm. I visited the farm and had such a great time. The owners were oh-so-nice and taught me a lot about varieties of trees as we walked their acreage. Of course, I said awesome things about them in my article. 

They liked that I said awesome things about them so much they put a blurb on their home page along with my name and phone number at the bottom. When people go to their website they just glance and see my number. Then my phone rings.

Mostly callers want to know if I'm open on Thanksgiving. Or Sundays. Or what time I close.

I could call the tree farm people and ask them to remove my phone number. I think I already did that a while back. 

But that's OK.

I like it when people call me.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Busyness blob

I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.”

I post these essays on my blog a few weeks after each one is released. 
The publishers get first dibs. :)

If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at Thanks so much! 

Busyness blob (released August 2, 2013)

By Kris Kolk

When neighbors experience life-changing troubles, why do we struggle to help? I think it’s because we are overrun with meaningless time hogs. We need to take control and smack busyness around a bit.

Following are three scenarios which are typical and unfortunate.

A woman hopes her cancer treatment works as her coworker hopes to find strawberry-scented hair conditioner at the salon.

A mother argues with her daughter about buying a new cell phone while en route to a candlelight vigil honoring a teenage suicide victim.

An elderly man sits alone in front of a TV dinner. During that same hour, the family next door fusses about too many phone calls at suppertime.

Jumping from one task to another, we plant marigolds by the mailbox, buy a plain white t-shirt for a school project, and groom the dog as he whines about it. After decades of this lifestyle, I’ve learned something important: busyness is like basement storage. It will grow to the size of its container.

When I was in my early 20s, I attended college full-time. I also had a part-time job and a boyfriend. I barely had time to bleach my hair with lemon juice, get my colors analyzed (I’m an “autumn”), or line my shoes against the wall in an orderly fashion like strappy, kitten-heeled soldiers. I accomplished it all, though, and was proud of my time management skills.

I lived according to the dictates of glossy magazine essays. I knew the seven ways to host a bodacious birthday bash and how to be the envy of women in a fitting room. I never saw headlines about helping others. If there was an article about producing a pinochle party for a playful nursing home populace, I missed it.

Splurging on ourselves is encouraged in our culture, but we must earn enough to fund the things we are told we deserve. This is a madman’s merry-go-round. In reality, having enough money for indulgences is a luxury. Many families would be satisfied for a chance at survival. Work and worry take a toll. It is no wonder most of us are exhausted and have little extra time.

Focusing on one another, especially in times of need, is an underestimated pleasure. It is low-cost, family-friendly, and much more fulfilling than acquiring things. It has the power to provide passion and is quite addictive. Use it to replace any bad habit or vice.

Be warned that becoming aware of our neighbors’ problems is often eye-opening and sometimes shocking. Therefore, we must protect our own inner joy. The mission is not to join the number of people wallowing in muck but to share our cheer and happiness with those navigating the darkness. Just having a compassionate person acknowledge and respect their situation provides valuable therapy.

I can call a friend who is battling cancer and listen while she vents frustrations. In addition to the tests and procedures, sick people need somewhere for their thoughts to land. That I can provide.

A family’s grief from losing a child will never go away. Yet there are many details to arrange during this time. Casseroles are helpful, but if we dig deeper, we may find school books need returned and siblings need a babysitter.

I understand we all must tend to necessities. I also realize that charities, faith-based services, and social programs exist for a reason; but these facilities are struggling. Helping at the neighborhood level relieves some of their burden. All it takes to help the guy next door is a spare moment and some forethought.

The next time busyness tries to boss your around, wrestle it to the ground. Declare: “After supper I’m not going to give the dog a bath. I’m going to take this apple crumble to Mr. Pivens instead.”

Mr. Pivens will be grateful and the dog will thank you, too. 

Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at Email her at .

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Banana bread and a weirdo

I was feeling guilty about the three overly-ripe bananas on my counter. 

But, as they say, when life gives you black bananas, make banana bread!

In the photo, you can see the Little Weirdo coming to the kitchen for a taste.

Here's my recipe:

Banana Bread (fit for a weirdo)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
2 or 3 bananas, peeled and mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour two loaf pans.
Beat ingredients together.
Pour batter into the pans.
Bake for about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  (set timer for 45 minutes and check periodically)

Have a lovely day!