September Farm Giveaway Winners

Hi everybody.

Thanks for entering the giveaway for a September Farm cheese sampler! I’m happy for each of you who joined the fun. Jessica Thomas is our fortunate winner! She said

Oh yum!! I love their cheese!!! We’re traveling to Lancaster this weekend and September farm is on my list of places I want to go.

(If anyone wonders exactly how winners are selected on this blog, see the endnote below for a full explanation.)

Now, for the rest of you, all is not lost. I’m sorry; I know – you never win. You’ve told me that before. However, this time we find ourselves in kind of a win-win situation, because September Farm is offering a coupon code for 20% OFF any orders made in the next two weeks with the coupon code CONFESSIONS20. How great is that?

Again, a few products worth highlighting (including that amazing cheese) are their gift baskets of all sizes, snack foods, smoked meats, best-selling cheeses, and fresh cheese curds. Oh! And their chocolate whoopie pies! Since my last post I had the opportunity to try those little chunks of heaven, and oh my word. They brought tears to my eyes.

Plus, September Farm staff have recently reworked shipping prices, creating more affordable options for those of us who live at a distance.

The 20% off coupon expires November 29, one use only per customer, so be sure to get everything you need right away. You’ll have a chance to enter the coupon code at checkout, and again, that’s CONFESSIONS20.

Thanks for supporting a great business. Happy shopping!


Full explanation: After each giveaway, my husband and I compile the names and email addresses of all commenters who enter (in this case, from each of two blog posts, as well as all email entries) into a spreadsheet. We assign each commenter a number, and check to remove any duplicate entries – such as when someone adds a note to their own comment, replies to someone else’s comment, or inadvertently enters twice. Then, let’s say there are eighty-nine people left. We ask random.org to choose a number between one and eighty-nine, and whatever number is picked, that’s our winner.

Hope that made everybody happy; or if not happy, then resigned. Okay, bye. xo

Trouble entering giveaway

The internet, says my husband, is not as nice a place as we’d like to think. It is more like a dark alley, and every second of every day, there are hands reaching out to rattle the doorknobs, checking, checking, checking all down the alley for any unguarded portal.

I hate that image, it gives me the heebie-jeebies; so I thought I’d share it with you.

Apparently in the past month, my blog has come under attack by an unprecedented number of spam subscriptions. In an effort to address that issue, we tightened some security settings and inadvertently shut down the comment section. Also our email sending service, as I informed you, went on the blink for undisclosed reasons of its own, and failed to notify my readers of the giveaway.

All that to say, it was the quietest giveaway I’ve ever started. The funny side of the story is that in my original post, I’d written “Today, September Farm is offering you a chance to win one of their Small Samplers free of charge. (Seriously, did I just see you jump out of your seat? I know there’s exciting stuff here, but my gracious. Calm down.) Each Small Sampler includes…”

I hit publish, and the next morning I awoke to no comments. Zero. Not one, and I thought, “Good grief, people, I didn’t mean that calm…”

Even after we figured out the email notification issue and I breathed easier and sent another email to let you know about the giveaway, it took us another hour or two to figure out that comments had been disabled. We fixed that (we thought) and are still hearing reports that commenting is not working properly. So our problems are not behind us.

How is it that I can lump along writing about nothing for weeks and things go fine, and as soon as I collaborate with someone else and care about it more, everything blows up as predicted by Mr. Murphy? Believe it or not, we are not doing this to exasperate you. But I’m so sorry if we’re succeeding.

I need you to do me a favor.

If you want to enter the September Farm giveaway and are having trouble leaving a comment on my blog, please email your comment to sharizook@gmail.com and I’ll take care of copying and pasting it to the right place.

If you’re not sure if your comment already posted, double check by searching the page. (Control + F enables you to “Find” text, including your name.)

If you are having trouble accessing parts of the blog, subscribing to my posts, leaving a comment, or otherwise living a happy life online, and you would like to help us solve the problem, please email my tech-support husband at ryan@zookcomputer.com. Your feedback helps us address the issues!

Most of all, thank you for hanging in there with us and our technology. Blogs are human too…

Or something.


As of Nov 14, the September Farm giveaway is closed.

Giveaway: September Farm Sampler

As of Nov 14, 2017, this giveaway is closed.

Confession: I do love a good cheese, a good family, and a good story. All three come together in the business I’m promoting today: September Farm Cheese.

If you live near Lancaster County, you already know about September Farm. Their beautiful store is the place to stop for amazing fresh cheese, sandwiches, ice cream, and more. But did you know you can buy September Farm products from their webstore and have them shipped to your doorstep?

The Rotelle family has been involved in food production for four generations. In 2007, Dave and Roberta established September Farm Cheese, using milk from their own excellent dairy to produce the finest quality cheese.

Since then, September Farm has become ever more widely known for their delicious creations:

Handcrafted Monterey Jack

  • in many delightful flavors
  • including the award-winning Chives & Dill

Handcrafted Cheddar

Authentic Dutch Gouda

And much more, including Swiss, Havarti, Parmesan, and Mozzarella. Their own dairy still produces all the milk used in manufacturing the cheese. They age and ripen their cheese in their temperature and humidity regulated cheese cave.

I’ve been privileged to be a frequent taster of September Farm products – one of the Rotelle children lives in my community, and we always try to schedule our church potlucks for right after she’s visited home and returned bearing gifts. Okay, that was a joke. But still, I’ve loved every one of the cheeses I’ve tried: they’re creamy, nuanced, and perfectly textured.

I’ve also visited September Farm’s lovely store in Honey Brook, PA, sampling good things and making purchases. I love visiting on location, but it’s not always possible – so I’m really excited about their growing online presence!

They’ve recently expanded their online offerings, adding many products that were previously available in-store only, including fresh cheese curds, meats, relishes and dips, and beautiful gift baskets with customizable options, perfect for tasteful (or did I mean tasty?) holiday presents. Purchases can be made from their webstore at any time.

Today, September Farm and I are offering you a chance to win one of their Small Samplers free of charge! A Small Sampler includes

  • Three 8-ounce bars of handcrafted cheese (your choice of eleven flavors!)
  • One 8-ounce Lebanon Bologna
  • A September Farm cheese wire

Here are the flavors one fortunate winner will get to pick from.

Mild Cheddar
Medium Cheddar
Sharp Cheddar
Robertson’s Extra Sharp Cheddar
Smoked Cheddar
Jumpin’ Jack Jalapeño
Honey Jack
Pepperoni Augusto Jack
Chives & Dill Jack
Garlic & Basil Jack
Joy’s Tomato Basil Jack

If you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a Small Sampler, I’m asking you to share this post on social media, or forward by email to a few friends. Then leave a comment below. Keep in mind that September Farms staff will read your comments, so if you have favorite flavors, or new cheeses you’d like to see them develop, be sure to let them know – and don’t forget to say thank you! {wink}

Cheese, anyone?


Don’t be shy if you are new to Confessions. This is the perfect chance to say hi and leave your first comment. I’d love to meet you!

I was given a Small Sampler by September Farm Cheese in exchange for hosting this giveaway, and it was scrumptious. All facts have been checked to the best of my ability with knowledgeable sources, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Giveaway will remain open for one week, closing at midnight on November 14, 2017. Open only to persons with a US mailing address. Winner will be chosen by random.org.

This giveaway is closed.

A word from the aged: How you’ll know

Thank you so much for your kind words this week. I liked hearing from you, and in everything that you are experiencing I wish you joy. <3

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, a wrinkled and graying self-portrait. I wrote it but could not bring myself to publish it; I feared shocking the world with the darkness. Now I am light enough to share it, and parts of it make me grin, as they were meant to. So – don’t forget what I said last time. We are loved. And next week we will move on to brighter things.

I hear the echo of the old folk’s voices, and this is what they say…


You will know you have become an adult, son, when one day you notice there is no one standing over you saying good job, honey. Way to go. You’re so amazing and talented, look at you. This will be your first clue that you have arrived: the non-cheering.

You will know you’re an adult when the work you get paid for is so small a fraction of your real work that you’re not sure what to call what you do. The real work never ends and sometimes at the end of the day you cross it all off the list whether it’s done or not, because it looks better that way; maybe your priorities changed since morning. People will not know precisely what you do. They will ask, and look polite, and not know. They will become recipients of your work without knowing it, and when they notice it at last they will not know that you did it.

Now you are an adult. This is how we live here.

If a friend says Ah, we were just talking about you, and We thought you’d be the right person, and You’re so good at… you will not feel flattered anymore; you will shoot a glance at the nearest exit because you will know. This is not about you being good. This is about work needing to be done by someone, and they picked you as the person most likely to offer least resistance.

You will know, because you will wake up one morning and discover that you have become a cranky old toot, and it was easier than you thought it would be. You will be unfailingly nice to people (mostly), because you have your big boy shorts on and that is what you want to do, but inside you will at times be burnt to a crisp by the feelings you cannot feel, the scorching ironies you cannot point out. You will have seen what is true. People are rude and worthless and unbelievable. To you. And you go on.

You will see yourself there among the worthless ones. You did not emerge from your cocoon with wings, and you will increasingly feel you are simply making the best of a bad situation. You hoped to be a kinder person than you are, a better citizen, a truer friend.

You will feel like a fraud and a fake much of the time, because you have invested a lot of energy into things that did not turn out like you thought they would; people do not always see this and you cannot always talk about it. When they praise you, it will hurt a little. You will become unable to touch certain places in your mind without wincing, and sometimes people will be clumsy and jog one of them.

You may find you prefer a cup of coffee and silence to any activity in the universe.

Your books and music will turn subtly darker, like your coffee, and your silence, and your universe.

When young people talk, you may bite your lip to keep from telling them it’s not like that in the real world. You will feel pity sometimes when you should feel joy.

Speaking about what you are thinking will be harder. The easy babblers with the fresh faces will assume it is because you are not thinking, but this is not the case. There are too many words to choose from, and none without consequences.

You will know that of the many paths you could have walked, you happened upon one: not the best one, but one. Though you did not know everything then, you lived, and life chose for you. There are many things you will not be good at now, much you will never experience firsthand. Your life has a shape, and keeps you.

That is how you will know you have become an adult.

Congratulations. You have arrived.

Now turn, son, and walk back the way you’ve come. Unlearn your life’s slow training in self-preservation and wisdom and skepticism. Reach to touch. There was another truth you knew before you knew the truth. For the rest of your life, your task will be to uncover trust in each of the places you were burned – to smile, to become like a little child, to watch for the new day.

Between songs

When a beautiful woman in her sixties, with a serene face and an artistic hand, sits beside you at the craft table and asks to hear your story, you do not refuse. Nor do you refuse when a fun-loving stranger offers to do a coconut-oil-honey-and-cocoa-powder facial with you, and all the supplies are laid out. Nor when another cute and sassy stranger says “Hey, want to take a selfie with me? It’s my Sneaky Card assignment.”

I did not say no.

But this story starts long before that.

1.

This summer my left foot was stepped on by a six-foot-something stranger, who apologized profusely and said “I’m sorry, it was only a matter of time. I’m no good at dancing.” I am so happy it did not occur to him that it might have been my fault, the little Mennonite lady standing beside him in the front row at a Christian concert.

Well. When my eighteen-year-old brother told me that his guy friend had a last-minute change of plans and couldn’t make it, and would I be interested in joining him at an open-air summer concert, I did not say no. I said, “Will I like it?” And then I looked up the band online and said, “Well, they sound pretty mild.” He just grinned at me.

The night of the concert, he showed up holding an iced coffee he’d bought for me. It turned out there were three bands playing that night, none of which I’d ever heard before, and I do not think mild was necessarily the word I would choose in retrospect – they were handing out ear plugs in the front row and my, did we need them. But the confetti and smoke were fun. And what I could hear of the music I liked just fine.

My little brother was very sweet, he kept asking me if I needed anything and when I spilled my coffee on the dirt he got napkins for me, and when I cried he gave me a hug.

Yes, I did cry.

I did not go to the concert expecting to hear from God. I went to have an adventure with my brother, to eat funnel cake and to spend an evening happy and free. The songs made me loosened and peaceful – but it was between songs, when a new artist began to speak of his wife’s loss of an unborn baby, and of the wise words of an old woman in their congregation, that I suddenly melted and began to cry. I cried a hard and healing rain on that clear summer night, because I know about loss, and because in that story and in the golden shower of confetti I heard God say Shari, I see you.

2.

And then came a venue even stranger.

I watched a silly and fanciful movie, The BFG, based on Roald Dahl’s book about a Big Friendly Giant who concocts dreams to blow gently into the minds of sleeping children. I say the movie was silly because although I really like the BFG himself, there were too many scenes of drama for my liking, too many children in danger from the bad giants. But at one place there is a scene where the BFG tells Sophie that he hears everything in the world, and he will always be listening. He says, “I is hearing all the wonderous and all the terrible, terrible things. All the secret whisperings of the world.”

At the end of the movie, I closed the computer and went up to bed. I was scheduled to meet with my mentor the following afternoon. I planned to tell her about the stressors, the questions, the guilt. But we had to cancel at the very last minute, and my husband said, “Why don’t you take some private time anyway?” I drove to my favorite green-grassed graveyard, a quiet place of rhododendrons and old trees, and sat against a gravestone in the warm sun. I sat there, thinking and whispering to God, falling in and out of sleep, and while my mind was quiet I heard him say I hear you. I am right here. I am always right here, waiting for you to talk to me.

That was so good of him. I’d been pretty sure he wasn’t listening anymore, but now I had a picture of his face lighting up when I open my mouth, when I even whisper to him. Right there. He doesn’t miss a sound.

I see you. I hear you.

3.

Then then I told my friend Joanna that in October I’d go with her to a foster moms’ retreat, Rejuvenate PA. I wanted to go with her and she made the offer irresistible, but in the weeks leading up to the event I worried I wouldn’t belong. We don’t have a placement right now.

We don’t have a placement because we said goodbye to some small and precious children we could not keep, and took a break to care for the ones who were born to us, and the guilt and fear from that decision slowly rose to choke me this past year, a woolen shawl drawn ever more tightly around my chest and neck, prickling, constricting, choking. What had I done? What if I’d ruined everything? How did I ever think I could survive this?

I didn’t need a vacation at the fostering retreat. I needed healing. I needed hope.

That is how I found myself laughing and crying with strangers, doing crazy things like high-speed hayrides and board games past midnight, fake Italian accents, impromptu selfies, chocolate facials. We shared every activity: creating decoupage and planting fairy gardens, enjoying long massages donated by professional therapists, hearing the word of God, singing, painting, eating food we didn’t prepare, getting up early to worship and pray, soaking in the beautiful weather, listening to each other’s stories, talking, talking, talking.

We had creative generosity dumped on us, all weekend long.

When I arose for prayer one morning (after having decided to sleep in, and then wakening early after all, too excited to sleep), I found that the leaders had set up prayer stations all around the edges of our main room. Each station had printed instructions waiting for us. One station had a poster board with a cross drawn on it, where we were invited to write our troubles and let Christ carry them. On the cross were newly-written words like fear and control and guilt. There were many stations. I walked across the room to one and sat down. On a table were hand mirrors, and the instructions said, Look into a mirror. What do you see when you look at yourself? What do you think God sees? What is keeping you from accepting God’s version of who you are?

I looked into the mirror began to cry silently, hopelessly, without words. “I have not liked myself for months. I see shame, I see pain, I see worthlessness. I see a woman who is not enough.”

I let my Father look at me, there in the mirror. In his eyes there was nothing but love.

I see you. I hear you. I love you.

I cannot explain the works of God. I cannot say the darkness will not return. Sometimes I don’t talk to my Father about what I feel; sometimes I don’t hear him when he talks to me. But I know I experienced his healing in that place by hearing his voice, by letting his daughters care for me, and by worshipping his son Jesus.

By the end of the weekend I could look around the room and think “I know the name of that woman’s son, and what his needs are. I know this lady’s court date, and what she worries about. That woman gave me painting tips. This one sat by a campfire with me and reminded me of what the truth was. That one prayed for me. And she, and she, and she, will carry my story home with her.”

And now I am ready to go on.