I am consistently amazed and impressed by the growth of the Internet.

On New Year’s we drove to a friend’s house, just a few blocks away for a relaxed get-together. The husband walked over to me, an old Coca-Cola crate in hand and asked if I would like it. “Like it? Are you kidding me? I’d LOVE it!” It was still caked with dirt from the barn it had been living in for who knows how long. What a prize!

This morning I saw it, propped against a cabinet in our kitchen next to the sink. I had brought it in to wash it, but the sink had been full, so it sat there until I noticed it again. As the coffee brewed I sat down at the computer and typed into the search engine “uses for coke crates” (with several changes to the words – soda, cola, etc). A host of ideas came up on re-purposing coca-cola crates, along with pictures, which I always enjoy. One woman had spent a year collecting little tiny teapots and had them displayed in a cola crate hanging on a wall. Another used coke crates to store baby-food jars filled with spices.

I resolved to hang the crate either in the kitchen or in the basement we are currently finishing out.

In the midst of my viewing different links and pictures, I also happened upon a completely different link. Search engines are amazing, but there are many things they pick up that don’t have anything to do with what you are looking for. And sometimes, actually quite often, these links can take you in directions you would never have thought of. One of my searches yielded the resulting link: http://www.yourdon.com/personal/fiction/doovers/index.html which led to a fictional book a published non-fiction writer had written. I read the first chapter, bookmarked it, and plan to continue reading it later.

What did it have to do with re-purposing coca-cola crates? Absolutely nothing. But it did lead to a source of entertainment and an education about how one writer has handled rejection (if the agents & editors won’t take it, publish it yourself!).

How often do you ask a question and find yourself typing it into a search engine? What will that answer yield? What other paths will it set you on that you have yet to discover?

Yesterday I was writing a scene in Book 2 of “War’s End” (a TEOTWAWKI type novel) and needed to sweeten a cup of chicory (non-caffeinated substitute for coffee). Having no sugar, and having already written in sugar beets into the book earlier, I now needed to understand HOW to extract the sugar from sugar beets. So I looked it up online! It’s actually pretty easy. I think I will try making my own sugar next year (I’ve already bought the sugar beet seeds). The link explains it all – http://www.ehow.com/how_2177131_sugar-beets.html and I easily added it to the story and continued writing.

I also bookmarked the page in case I need it later. Before I returned to writing entirely, I checked out how to raise beets (another link directly on the page) and this led to a question of how long beets take to mature. I knew by this point that I would need to start the seeds in the last week of March and had marked my calendar per the instructions on raising beets. Outlook will remind me of when to plant them now. After revising my search words to “how many days do sugar beets take to mature” I learned it will take 45 days. So I can plant them in March, say the 20th, and by Mother’s Day they’ll be ready to harvest and make into sugar. Cool!

You don’t have to take the path I just did. I recognize that not everyone is writing a book or needing to research wild edibles or circa 1800’s style food production. Really, I do understand that!

My point is this: Our lives should be filled with learning. Not the “Oh God, I have to study for the Biology test!” That’s memorization and regurgitation. It is somewhat necessary, since you often need those pretty little letters to follow your names. What I am talking about is the adventure, the leisurely dip into the pool of knowledge that sits there waiting for you. It waits for you to follow your passions, your interests, and indulge your curiosity.

What are quasars and how do they work? My eyes glaze over at the thought, but my nephew will happily discuss string theory all day if given the chance.

What can you do with old Coca-Cola crates? Well, from my travels today I would say that they have dozens of uses, including that of furniture. I think that’s pretty cool.

I want to work from home, what legitimate jobs can I do? Between Amazon.com and, eHow, About.com, and your local library – you’ll find plenty of options, my friend.

Take hold of this amazing resource and grow and learn and explore. Lose yourself in the possibilities and learn a new language, build a new skill, and discover your passion along the way.

And just for fun…here is what I ended up doing with the cola crate…

All those silly little things we hang on to…knickknacks, gifts from our children, mementos from the past. The yellow and red colors on the side of the crate matched perfectly with my kitchen paint colors!