"" Writer's Wanderings: 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

The KID in Christmas

Over the weekend, I gave two very different presentations about the KID in Christmas. They were sparked by an ad I saw for the Elf, a Christmas movie in DVD now. The ad said, "For the kid in all of us."

The first presentation was for Toastmasters and I spoke about letting the kid come out at Christmas to make the holiday more fun--Kicking Christmas off with the enthusiasm of a child, Indulging in childish things (candy canes and snowmen), De-Scrooging Christmas.

The second was at my church. I used the letters K-I-D to talk about Jesus being born a King, Incarnate God, and Delight of His Father. I added an exclamation point--rejoice!

It was actually a shameless way of showing off my four grandchildren. You see I made large letters and an exclamation point and put their pictures on the letters that spelled out KID! I used them to make each of my points in the talks.

While everyone chuckled over what I'd done I did make my overall point: Christmas is a time to celebrate and who celebrates better than a kid at Christmas?

So I wish you a Merry Christmas and remind you to let the kid in you come out to celebrate the KID!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ground Zero 3

We took the subway to the station we thought was near Ground Zero and found ourselves about a block away. Walking toward the area was like walking through a pass in the mountains and suddenly having a huge valley open up before you. The noisy hustle and bustle of the city was shut out by the awesome quietness I felt as I looked at the gaping empty space in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers.

We walked to the fence and peered through. Below us there were bulldozers and construction vehicles looking no bigger than my grandson's toy trucks compared to the vastness of the empty foundation they were working on. There were still spots where you could see where the iron rods had supported walled structures. It didn't look like new construction. It was obvious that the rods and walls that were exposed below ground level had been attached to something--something that was no longer there.

Across the street, was the church where so many rescuers found refuge for short spells of time as they fought to find survivors in the ruble. Remnants of the memorials left on the fence, pictures and tributes were scattered about the church in displays that showed part of the story of those days following 9/11.

Out in the old graveyard in front of the church, there is a stump from a 100 year old tree that was the only thing destroyed in the yard when a beam from one of the buildings fell across it. It is amazing that nothing on the church was harmed. I couldn't help but think that maybe God felt that among all the suffering there needed to be a place to find comfort. Even today, the church continues to offer comfort to the relatives, the rescuers, the survivors who are still sorting out the tragedy that changed so many lives.

I wonder what NYC will ultimately do to the 16 acres of emptiness in the middle of lower Manhattan. Will they rebuild and cover the scars left behind of that terrible event? Or will they place something there to remind us that even though the scars may be ugly, there is healing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ground Zero 2

All of my kids were home except for Andy who looked as though he might be stranded in Washington state. He had some trouble getting home when they grounded all the airplanes, but eventually made it safely back to his wife.

I remember the eerie silence of the skies. Noise that we had assimilated in our everyday life and didn't notice, was suddenly gone. Life was unsettled. What did the future hold? Were we still in danger? I imagined the feelings our generation was going through were similar to those of our grandparents' generation when Pearl Harbor was hit. This seemed closer to home though. This was the continental US.

Like most of the nation, I was glued to the television trying to absorb the enormity of the tragedy--praying for rescuers and those needing rescue. I watched as the remains of what had been some of the tallest buildings in the world were carefully moved and searched. But what was on my TV screen, I knew could only glimpse the full extent of the destruction. The human tragedy was almost too much to bear. The faces of those who waited word of their loved ones haunted me.

Eventually, I pulled away as I am sure millions of others did as well. The event had been life changing--world changing, but it was time to move on. Now, four years later, I was offered the opportunity to visit NYC. There was no way I would go and not visit Ground Zero--not spend a few moments thanking God for those he spared and praying for those families whose lives now had a hole in them--a hole as big as the one left in the middle of NYC.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ground Zero

I remember where I was when it happened, do you? I was sitting at my sewing machine and listening to Good Morning America (I wasn't a Today fan yet) and the phone rang. It was the secretary from our church asking about some activity I was involved with. As she talked, I watched the bulletin interrupt the programming and Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson's anxious faces as they began to relay the news--a jet had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

"Oh, my gosh!" I exclaimed and repeated what I'd just heard to the secretary. We finished our conversation and after I hung up, I continued to watch as the news unfolded and the second jet hit the second tower. Then it became frightening. This was no accident.

I had planned to take our son, Don, shopping for furniture for his first venture into the world of independent living. This was a big deal for a young man with Don's mental handicaps. I didn't want to disappoint him. We started out and found that every store we went to was practically deserted. Employees were gathered around TVs whenever they were available or just huddled together under a speaker that was piping in the news as the morning progressed. I wanted desperately to know what was happening but I didn't want to frighten Don either.

Don and I quickly found what he needed and then headed for a pizza shop for lunch. I sat where I could see their TV and let Don ramble on in his excitement, nodding my head as if I were listening, but keeping an eye on the events unfolding on the TV screen. A shot of the first tower collapsing was shown. I gasped. It made Don turn and look. Fortunately, he didn't understand the full impact. It was just another disaster or maybe a building being imploded.

This was unreal. Suddenly, life was uncertain. I wondered if I was going to be able to let him go out on his own. For that matter, the mother in me wanted to gather all my "chicks" together and make sure they were safe.

When we went home, I began making phone calls. Where were the rest of my boys? Were they safe?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Five Seconds of Fame 2

Well, we managed to inch our way to a space behind three women dressed in "I (heart) NY" pajamas and Santa hats. Sure enough Al Roker came out and paused for a moment to look at their attire. Just as he did, the crowd squeezed in around us and any chance of our being on camera faded with three signs thrust in front of our faces.

I was about ready to give up and go get something to warm the icicles forming around my nose and eyebrows. The focus had shifted to the other end of the Plaza where the Eurythmics were performing. As soon as they were done with "Sweet Things are Made of This," the crowd began to thin. I looked at Bob. "Should we tough it out and see if they come over here again or just leave?"

"It's your call," he said bouncing up and down and clapping his hands together to get them warm. We decided to stay until the top of the hour--9 o'clock.

We watched Ann Curry come out to do a promo from a platform near us. She was much prettier in person than on TV and was warm and friendly to the crowd around her even though she was visibly shaking from the cold.

They were preparing to seque to the next song by the Eurythmics when a cameraman stopped in front of me and looked down at the sign that I was beginning to drag now. "Nice sign," he said nodding his head up and down as much as he could with a big camera on his shoulder. He climbed up to the same platform where Ann had been a few minutes before. The Eurythmics began to sing. He pointed the camera at me. I held the sign high and saw the red light come on. It seemed like it was on for an eternity and I watched as the lense zoomed in. Was he taking a close up?

Bob was behind me watching the monitor and suddenly called out, "That's our sign! Hey, you're on!" Just about the time he turned around, the red light went off and our five seconds of fame were over.

Fame is so fleeting...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Five Seconds of Fame

Bear with me...I'm still rehashing the wonderful time we had in NYC this past Thanksgiving. It included an early morning--very early and very cold--trip to Rockefeller Center Plaza for the Today Show.

We had searched the nearby drugstores for poster board and markers almost to no avail. Everyone was making signs to hold up for the big parade. We finally found some foam board and a smattering of fine point markers--not the best for filling in lettering on a sign.

Next came the question of what to put on the sign. I was torn between "Hey Robbins Family! Save some Turkey!" and a "Checkin' Our List" sign. I had seen turkey signs before, so we opted for the List sign. I drew blocks like bullet points for our list and wrote, "The Today Show, Parade, Turkey Dinner, Top of the Rock, Christmas Shopping." Each block except the shopping one was checked. We filled in the Today Show with diagonal bands of color loosely resembling the colors that NBC uses in its trademark. The rest was done in black and dark purple when the black pens began to run out of ink. It took us most of Thanksgiving afternoon, but it was a good time to rest and relax and stay warm after being out in the cold for so long at the parade.

Sign in hand--both hands--fighting the icy wind, we trekked down to Rockefeller Plaza. It was 6 a.m. The show didn't start until 7, but we were already late. The plaza was almost full to capacity with people. Security checked our sign to be sure it wasn't advertising or offensive or, I'm suspecting, political, and we oozed into the middle of the crowd that was facing the far end waiting for the live concert by the Eurythmics.

Once in a while the camera suspended on a boom above the crowd would swing over the top of us and people would go wild cheering and waving signs. Bob noted that the camera wasn't even on yet. I knew I wanted to be in the back of the crowd closer to where the Today personalities would come out to do the weather. There was a lot better chance of being seen there and I certainly didn't want to disappoint my grandkids who were watching or TiVoing.

Carefully, and slowly we inched our way closer to the barriers as people got too cold and gave up--leaving for hot chocolate or coffee. It was getting closer to 8:30, their scheduled appearance time in the Plaza. Would we be close enough by then?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Toys Toys Toys

Christmas shopping is getting to be less fun for me. My own kids and their wives are far enough removed from my everyday life that I don't see the little things they need like I used to when they lived at home. (No, I'm not asking that they move back in.) Often they provide lists but that reduces the element of surprise even though it saves on returns after Christmas.

The grandchildren, however, offer a spot of delight in the holiday excursion to the mall and toy store. I envy the grandparents who get to shop at FAO Schwarz in NYC. When we visited there, we found a wonderland of awe and excitement. The first floor was filled with every kind and size of stuffed animal imaginable. The second floor had designer toys. As we neared the top of the escalator, we discovered the giant keyboard that Tom Hanks danced on in the movie Big. There were some accomplished young musicians dancing out tunes as onlookers watched in amazement.

Moving to the dolls department, we happened upon the nursery section. Behind a plexiglass window were hospital bassinets with lifesized baby dolls wrapped in blankets waiting for "mommies" to claim them as their own. The sales clerk for the area was dressed as a nurse and would retrieve a baby now and then for a perspective mother to hold.

In the action toys area, there was a bank of computers where kids of all ages could design a custom Hot Wheels car--color, body, detailing. We passed by wishing we had Tyler with us and found ourselves staring up at a giant dinosaur whose head swayed back and forth as it opened its mouth to roar. Beyond the prehistoric creature lay a wonderland of Legos--kits, pieces and parts of all sizes and colors, and huge buildings and creatures made of thousands of Legos.

We rounded another corner to discover a lifesized Barbie dollhouse that contained every Barbie and accessory made to delight the Barbie fans. I was truly feeling like a babe in toyland.

There were numerous stations along the way where toys were being demonstrated. I didn't realize how significant the demos were until the demonstrator of one toy asked if the buyer wished him to sign it. He was the inventor of the toy!

While Toys R Us was huge and carried every toy imaginable, FAO Schwarz was unique and truly made me feel like a kid again. I was wishing I'd brought an extra suitcase--but then one wouldn't have been enough to hold all I wanted. Just like a kid I wanted more than I needed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Macy's Parade Balloons

Scarf drawn around my head and neck, clutching my coat closed, I shuffled through the crowd of people heading for 81st street. It was a windy cold Wednesday night before the Macy's Parade. As Bob and I rounded the corner, we were greeted by the 10 foot wide smile of a big brown dog hoovering just slightly off the pavement. Scooby Doo looked plump with helium and ready to bound down Broadway in the morning. With the predicted winds, he would be a tough character to hang on to.

Other balloons in the parade were at various stages of inflation. Some were just being unrolled from bags that looked no bigger than those which would contain a good sized tent for camping. They lay pancake flat on the street until all the guide lines and appendages were unfurled and the hose from the industrial sized tank of helium on a truck nearby was attached. With a hiss, the flat fabric begins to take shape. Arms, legs, ears, lips, all fill with the lighter than air gas and it begins to float hampered only by the netting thrown across it to secure it for the night.

The next day we were awed as the balloons paraded by us tethered by two jeeps and 25-40 people who held guide lines to move the characters down the street. It was windy. They struggled at intersections where open spaces created cross winds. But, except for one mishap, they all made it safely to the Macy's department store on 34th Street--a miracle indeed.

Often, as the balloons passed by or stopped for a short time in front of us, the wind would cause the huge characters to sway--sometimes right over the top of our heads. Their size was overwhelming and the danger they presented should they get out of control was always a consideration.

I thought about how we inflate our worries so often like those big balloons. They become overwhelming and dangerous if we let them. They loom over us, darkening our world. Macy's used to release the balloons when the parade was over (they were smaller then) and let them float away to be taken care of by wind and air pressure that would eventually explode the inner cavities. It is a good analogy--let go of those inflated worries and let God take care of them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday Greetings

Life has been moving in the fast lane lately. Unfortunately that led me to neglect posting my musings and stories for the past week. But life has also been good. FYI we went to NYC for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (more to follow) and my BIG news--I now have an agent for the novel I have written, In a Pickle. I am one step closer to seeing the first of a series featuring Annie Pickels, pickle entrepreneur and world traveler. Yes, it is humorous. Yes, it has a dash of romance. And yes, I AM EXCITED!

The contract came just before we left for New York and needless to say, Bob wondered if he would have to tie a string to me to keep me from floating down Broadway with Scooby Do and Chicken Little. It was a little strange being away for Thanksgiving. Except for the year I was sick, I think it is the first Robbins Thanksgiving we've missed in 37 years. Not to worry though, we did have a great turkey dinner.

Bob made reservations with the restaurant in our hotel for our Thanksgiving dinner. There was a huge salad buffet and a modest dessert buffet (but tasty!) and inbetween the two was a plateful of turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry relish and sweet potatoes. Mmm-mmm.

When we were first seated, our waiter came over to take our drink order. He introduced himself and I answered with "Happy Thanksgiving!" He straightened and stepped back. I wondered if I'd made a faux pas. I hate empty space so I filled it with, "I'm so glad you're here today so we could have dinner."

He started in to say, "What can I get you..." and then he shook his head. "You know, you are the first person today who's said 'Happy Thanksgiving' to me...and before you asked me to get you anything!" I felt tears rush to my eyes. I'm not a weeper so that surprised me. Here was this gentleman working his tail off all day (his shift ended shortly after we came) to make customer's happy with their holiday dinner and no one had taken the time to wish him good will.

Perhaps we shouldn't be worried with how we are greeted in the stores this season but more about how we greet others. There may be someone God has put in your path who needs to hear, "Merry Christmas!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mending Broken Hearts

I just returned from a grueling three day seminar on speaking. The motto was "never let them rest." The leaders (CLASServices) lived up to the motto. It always amazes me to see the collection of people God gathers together at these types of seminars and conferences.

As Christian writers and speakers, we want to reach out to those who are hurting and need encouragement. Why? Because at some point in our lives we've been touched by some of the hurt or the ugliness of life. We remember the broken heart. The stories I heard in just three short days could fill volumes of works...and may, if the tellers also become writers.

While a speaker or writer cannot be the mender of the broken heart, she can be a vehicle for God to do his handiwork. What a privilege to be used in such a way.

"For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34b

Friday, November 11, 2005

Had Me at Hello

This has been a year of natural disasters starting with a horrendous tsunami, followed by earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. People have lost great numbers of loved ones, homes, jobs, all the things that were important in their lives.

We live under the threat of terrorists who bomb discriminately or indiscriminately at will. An expert commented the other day that no country is safe. A suicide bombing is not a matter of "if" but "when."

Crime, poverty, unemployment, disease, homelessness, death,--the list goes on, affecting our lives no matter where we live.

Wouldn't you think that we would have more important things to worry about than whether a Wal-Mart greeter says "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" to us as we enter the store? How about "Hello?" It worked for Tom Cruise and Renee Zellwinger.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Typing 101

Do you remember Typing 101? After all those years of learning the alphabet--singing the song--suddenly you were faced with a keyboard that seemed to make no logical sense. Credit goes to inventor Christopher Lathan Sholes for what appears to be the haphazard organization of the keys. Originally the keys were arranged alphabetically but as his skill and speed in typing increased, he found the keys colliding and sticking together. Thus he had to reorder the keys to make the process of typing easier and more efficient and keep the mechanics of the typewriter in better working order.

Our lives are often like the keyboards upon which we type. Seemingly haphazard and out of order. Often nothing makes sense. We question, "Why?" But, just as we place our hands upon the letters on the keyboard and make words, paragraphs and even great works of literature, so God's hands upon our lives can bring order, grace and great works of love. The keyboard will always seem disordered but the master's hand upon it will determine its production.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pink, Blue, or Yellow?

Okay, now here's a conversation starter: What's your favorite sugar? Pink, blue, yellow, or white?

Have you noticed how colorful the litttle container of sugar packets that sits on the restaurant table has become? There used to be only two choices--granulated sugar and Sweet N Low that came in pink packets. Along came Equal in blue and now we have Splenda adorned in yellow. Add to that, for the naturalists among us, the packets of brown containing raw sugar--especially good in cappuccino.

It's no wonder life is so complicated when our choices only continue to multiply and we are forced into constant decision-making throughout our day. Calories or no calories? Processed verses raw? Sucralose, asparatame, saccharin, or sucrose? Alright, my head is spinning already.

Have a sweet day!

Friday, November 04, 2005


There is nothing more frustrating when you sail a boat than seeing your destination but you can't get there in a straight line. Rarely does the wind cooperate and blow from just the right direction for you to make a bee-line to your destination.

In order to get where you're going, you have to tack. That means you zig-zag back and forth toward your destination. The captain at the helm (usually Bob) yells "Come about!" The crew (usually me) then lets go of the line on the jib sail (the one in front) and the boat is turned to catch the wind from the other side. The line is pulled from the other side and fastened off on the cleat when the sail is in the right position. In the few seconds it takes the sail to cross over the bow of the boat, momentum is lost. But as soon as the wind fills the sail again, the boat pushes forward and get closer to its goal.

Now if you had a power boat, you'd just buzz right to the marina in a straight line. But that's noisy and not nearly as challenging.

This week my writing adventures have seemed a bit like using a sailboat to get where I want to be. I was moving right along and then the wind changed--I got another rejection. Since I am the captain of this ship, I yelled "Come about!" and set the sail to the other side (I sent my proposal out again). There were a few moments where the sail lufted in the breeze--I lost a little momentum but I am still heading for my publishing goal, albeit on a different tack.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Inanimate Personalities

As we pulled out of Hamilton, Bermuda, the cruise ship's horn sounded mournfully long and loud--a heartbreaking wail to the ears of those who loved her. This was the last time this ship would see Bermuda.

When we set sail in Philadelphia, we were aboard the Horizon, the very first cruise ship we had ever sailed on back in 1993. It was a young ship then--only about 2 years old. It was magical. I remember the first afternoon so clearly. We checked into our stateroom and were directed immediately to the lunch buffet being served on deck 11. I don't remember what I ate but I do remember sitting outside at a table, looking out over the beautiful harbor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and thinking, "It's just like the Love Boat on TV." (It was a popular show back then.)

We sailed on two more cruises aboard Horizon after that--one more to the Caribbean and another to Bermuda. While on the Millenium (another Celebrity ship) we heard that the Horizon was being sold/transfered to a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean. It was a wild and crazy thing to do, but we booked the last cruise of the Horizon for nostalgic reasons.

Arriving at Bermuda, we couldn't pull into the port of St. George's because of the weather. Hurricane Wilma was pushing wind and unstable weather conditions ahead of her. The channel to reach St. George's is very narrow allowing for little error. More than 8 knots of wind makes it precarious for a cruise ship. We docked at Hamilton instead.

We anticipated traveling by ferry and/or bus to St. George's and other interesting spots on the island. What we didn't anticipate was what was about to happen to the Horizon...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hot! Hot! Hot!

We were in Bermuda last week and visited a glassblowing demonstration in St. George's. It was the first time we'd ever seen someone make a plate.

A glob of molten glass was placed on the end of the long metal blow rod, heated in a raging furnace until it was red hot and then rolled in little granules of colored glass. The process was repeated a few times and then the hot glass was rolled in very fine white granules.

It was heated in the furnace again and then with a few gentle breaths, it became a round ball at the end of the rod. Thrust into the fire again, it glowed an ugly red-hot when the assistant handed the rod to the artist. She took tongs and gently shaped the ball, making it smooth, removing irregularities. The assistant took another rod, added a dollop of molten glass to the end and stuck it to the ball of glass held by the artist. The artist clipped the ball off of her rod and the assistant returned to the blazing fire again to reheat the glass.

Little by little, the artist enlarged the opening of the ball--each time requiring her assistant to reheat the glass. Eventually, as the glass cooled and the ball became a flat plate with fluted edges, a brilliant display of color was revealed. It came from all the little colored pieces that were first rolled into the glass. The bright colors swirled out from the center of the plate and became even richer in tone and hue as they caught the rays of the sun.

I couldn't help but think of how God refines us through our "fires"--our trials and sufferings. In the hands of the Artist, we become beautiful creations, richer still when caught in the rays of the Son's love.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Needle Phobia

I am a wimp--no way to pad that to make me look better. I'm facing my flu shot today and already feel that nibbling in my stomach. It's not as bad as it used to be though. I think having kids helped some.

BK (before kids), I passed out when I saw a needle approaching. If it didn't happen prior to the prick, it happened after. My mother, who seemed intrepid, sent me down to the lab one day one my own. I was around 17 and checking into the hospital to have my appendix removed. The lab did the blood test and then scratched my ear (it had something to do with seeing the blood clot). I must have caught sight of the needle then because as I left the room and walked to the elevator, I could feel the world gray around me.

I pushed the button and the elevator doors closed. The next thing I remember was falling forward into the arms of a nurse.

Along came kids. I assigned the task of "puppy" shots to Dad. He went most of the time. At first the pediatrician thought it was because we had twins and Dad was helping. Then he caught on that it was my needle phobia. He worked with me. When Dad couldn't make it, Dr. Rohweder made sure I stayed in the chair a while before he let me leave.

It's been 34 years since those puppy shots. I've had my fill of blood tests, shots, and IVs. I can usually make it through without fainting but the flight or fight adrenalin rush still courses through my veins and turns my stomach inside out.

Wish me luck today. I'd almost...almost rather have the flu.

(P.S. I'm taking next week off from my blog...Please don't think it's from my needle phobia. Smiles!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good Morning

Are you a morning person? I could be...if the morning started a little later. It's hard to shuffle past my husband at 6 a.m. as he stands at the sink, lathering a face flushed from a half hour workout on the treadmill. He chirps a "Good morning!" and I try to answer. It isn't pretty. I wake up with a throat that is voiceless until I have my coffee. I croak at him and move on to the kitchen.

Somewhere along the line--after having children who woke me at all hours of the night--I learned to do things without being fully awake. This isn't bad when everything goes well. But a few miscalculations can have you drinking hot water instead of coffee or wiping raw egg off the floor.

My voice returns in time to bid hubby good-bye. I go to my computer, coffee cup in hand, and turn it on. Now there are some mornings where it springs to life and is ready to go before I finish my morning draft of caffeine. Other mornings it keeps thinking, "Do I want to boot up or don't I?" I can sympathize with that.

At a writers conference this spring, someone quoted Mary Lou Redding of Upper Room (a devotional magazine) as saying, "Good morning is a statement of faith."

Good morning has to do with expectation. I've never wanted to set those expectations too high. I'd rather wait for the review. But by then it's afternoon and...well...everyone is saying "Good afternoon!"

How do they know? I know, I know...have faith.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Chaos Theory

The Chaos theory was a big part of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park--so big in fact, that I skipped through a lot of the detailed description he wrote. Now I think I could sum it up in a simple sentence: Chaos is three preschoolers going in three different directions amid a store full of delicate collectables with a grandfather chasing after them.

We had lunch with Tyler, Danielle, and Kotomi yesterday--and their moms too. Grandpa decided to take them off for a walk when they got antsy at the table. He made a wrong turn and ended up in a gift store. With squeals of delight, the three took off to explore. While I wasn't with him, I can imagine (from experience) what went on. Display carousels were spun, doilies were waved in the air, and bundles of stuffed animals were cuddled and tossed back on the shelves...or floor.

When I saw the place he had taken them, I could only shake my head in amazement.

"You had the kids here and you didn't have to pay for anything?"

That man leads a charmed life.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Yesterday I went to a writers conference in our area. It was a small conference but featured some dynamic speakers I had missed hearing at earlier conferences this year. When I entered the breakfast room, one of the speakers, author Cec Murphy, recognized my name and rushed over to me to give me a big hug and thank me for all the wonderful e-mails I had sent him.

Cec is the author of Committed But Flawed, a wonderful book on modeling our lives after characters in the Bible that weren't perfect but were committed to God. I used it for 26 weeks of study in the adult Sunday school class I teach. I had e-mailed him a couple of times to tell him how much the class enjoyed it and some of the responses to the book, and I'd invited him to come and meet the class if time permitted while he was in the Cleveland area.

I didn't think much about what I'd done. Cec is a prolific writer (about 100 books to his name) and I just figured he got that kind of feedback all the time. Maybe he does...maybe he doesn't. His response yesterday though reinforced my belief that no matter how big or small, how popular or unknown, how successful or not, everyone needs words of encouragement. His response to mine has encouraged me to continue to look for ways to make people feel appreciated.

Is there someone you could encourage today?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Midget Massacre

Last week, Kotomi, our almost two-year-old granddaughter, came to visit. One of her favorite things to do is draw. She spent hours drawing on a magnetic erase board and on paper with pencil. The most fun, however, for her and Grandpa was the sidewalk chalk on the driveway.

The two of them started out drawing flowers and trains and writing "Kotomi" and then Grandpa got a bright idea. He laid Kotomi on the driveway, arms stretched out, and drew the outline of her little body. When she stood up, he drew in the eyes and a big smile. She was thrilled--so much so that she laid down again and yelled, "Granpa, Granpa!"

About six body outlines later, Kotomi made Grandpa lie down and and she drew around him.

After the dust settled and Kotomi was on her way home, we surveyed the driveway, remembering the good time with her. We had to laugh at the image before us, though. It looked like a criminal investigation team had been in and drawn body outlines for a midget massacre that took out one giant as well.

Monday, October 10, 2005


A few weeks ago, I joined the Toastmasters club in our area. I wanted to sharpen my speaking skills especially when it comes to having to think on my feet. You know, when someone you are trying to impress with your latest book proposal asks you a question, totally off subject, and expects an answer.

The Toastmasters have what they call "Table Topics." Someone prepares a list of questions/topics and we take turns standing up to give a one to two minute talk on whatever subject comes your way. I was having great fun listening to questions that had the theme of a newlywed game show. Since there's nothing more fun than talking about your spouse's habits, I volunteered to take the next one. To my surprise, the list of game show questions was exhausted and I was given a serious subject to speak on. I faltered, grasping for ideas of what to say to a group I really didn't know well yet. I learned that a minute can be an awfully long time and I have a long way to go yet to smoothly field uncomfortable subjects among unfamiliar people.

I guess the old saying's true...be careful what you ask for...I'm learning.

Still, it's too bad the subject changed. I had such a good story about linty black fuzzies on the rug from hubby's dark socks.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Fly Lady

Did you just say "What?" I did to when I saw that listed as a topic at our Ladies' Day activities at church. The description of the workshop said the Fly Lady was going to get me organized. O...K..., I thought, if she can do that, she must be a super-hero...ine.

What I found was a super creative mind that has organized household tasks, cut corners, given encouragement, and forgiven the untidy. The FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself. The house didn't get the way it is in a day, you won't get it organized and cleaned in a day.

You start with the sink--developing a habit of getting it clean each night before you go to bed. If you wake up with a clean sink (one area of your house that shows promise) then you can feel a sense of accomplishment and it encourages you to push on.

Her website, www.FlyLady.net , is full of ideas for whipping the house into shape and keeping up with it. She divides the house into zones, and if you sign up on her site, she will e-mail you reminders and challenges for cleaning each zone. There is also a reference to another site that helps with meal planning--one of the chores I hate. I just may sign up for that one.

It was a fun seminar. The gal that presented it (not the actual Fly Lady) was sold on the idea. She said even her young children know what a five minute cleanup is and how to set a timer.

Well, time to go shine the sink...I forgot to do it last night.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Moxie Grandmother

Many thanks to those of you who have congratulated me on becoming a grandmother again. While the distance makes the longing to hold a new baby in my arms excruciatingly painful, the wonders of cyberspace and the internet help to ease the anxiety.

Within hours of Caleb's birth, we had pictures of him as he was being cleaned and dressed for his appearance in the nursery. My son took a break and went home to e-mail pictures for the hungry grandparents in Ohio and Arkansas to see. During the weeks that have followed, he has continued to update us with all the little nuances a newborn has to offer right down to that smile we all know is just gas tickling the tummy.

One of the best pictures comes from my daughter-in-law who knew that one of my greatest desires was to see my son holding his son. It's a picture I'll treasure.

I think back to when my son and his twin were born. They were the first grandchildren on both sides. We lived in Maryland at the time and our families were in Ohio. My mother had planned to come out to stay with me, but came down with pneumonia the week before they were born. My mother-in-law came in her place. Knowing my mother, I cannot imagine the angst she must have experienced. It was probably close to a week before she could get the first pictures. We had to take them, have them developed, and then send them by mail--snail mail.

I had printed "Do not bend--Precious pictures of first grandchildren" on the envelope. She told me later that the mailman had blown his horn when he delivered them so she'd know they had arrived. I'd bet she was hanging around the box everyday--waiting, pneumonia or not.

I'm glad I'm able to understand enough of this modern technology to get by. I sure would have hated to wait as long as my mother did. In a few days, I get to hold that little guy--the one who's smiling at me from my computer screen.

It's great being a moxie grandmother--or maybe I should make that foxie...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Not Me!

Yesterday my grandson got me into trouble. He's been going around saying, "Holy Sheets." At first, Mom and Dad were concerned that it was something else but once they established that the word was sheets, they asked him where he learned that word.

"Grandma Robbins."

I can see him sitting there saying it nonchalantly while playing with Thomas the Train, unconcerned that he may be putting a strain on family relationships.

I remember the days when my kids were developing their language skills. It was always a challenge to deprogram them upon their return from my parent's home. My mom and dad had some words in their volcabulary that did not carry over into mine. They were usually very good about not using them in front their grandchildren, but once in a while something would slip out. I'm sure my boys would have thought nothing of it, but Grandma and Grandpa made a big deal out of telling them not to repeat it. Right.

As kids do, they experimented with a few words. Thankfully we curtailed the usage of questionable volcabulary. Hopefully as adults, those lessons learned are keeping their language acceptable even when they are not speaking in my presence.

As for shouldering the blame for this newly learned phrase from my grandson, all I can say is, "Not me!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Baby Launched!

Right in the middle of my continuing saga, Take Me Away!, our fourth grandchild arrived. We dubbed him "the little taco."

He wasn't due until September 30, but at Leah's checkup, the midwife suspected the baby was breach. Sure enough, the ultrasound showed the baby folded like a taco, feet touching the nose. Rather than risk injury or an emergency c-section, they went ahead and scheduled a c-section for Friday, the 16th.

It's not going to be easy being a long-distance grandmother. I began pacing in my Ohio home as all the drama was unfolding in the Florida hospital. Almost two hours after the surgery was scheduled I got the call from my son.

"Mom! It's a boy! And I didn't pass out!"

My son was finally a father.

Now with four grandchildren, I should have plenty of stories for my new column. Beginning October 1, I am writing a column for www.inspiredparenting.net .

The topic: Grandparenting, of course!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Take Me Away! (7)

(This story is fiction--very loosely based on reality.)

“James?” I was so relaxed and sleepy, I could barely speak. “What was it you took from the mansion? You said you would tell me.”

“This, my love,” he said opening the picnic basket to display an elegant lunch complete with a little bouquet of flowers. He waved his hand across it. “All for you.”

I felt so special, but I was so tired. How could I even begin to eat all those lovely little sandwiches and cookies.

James began to play with a fuzzy weed he plucked from the grass. He traced it around my face. I closed my eyes. As the weed touched my nose, I felt a sneeze wanting to surface.

My wet hand grabbed my mouth.

Wet hand?

I opened my eyes.

“Meow.” Oscar swished his tail across my face one more time bringing me back from my fantasy world. I sighed deeply as the last vestige of James faded with my return to reality.

But, after all, without reality where would my fantasies take me?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Take Me Away! (6)

I glanced again at the foyer wondering if I had been left behind. Suddenly James appeared. He nodded. I excused myself from the Duke and his affable companions and made my way to the door. James wrapped the fur about my shoulders and we left quickly.

He popped me into the Astin Martin and deftly rounded the car to jump into the driver’s seat.

“I’ve got it. Now it’s time to get out of here.” The tires spun as he sped down the driveway.

“What have you got?” I asked.

“Later, my love,” he said smiling. His eyes crinkled slightly at the corners. He was pleased with himself and somehow, I knew, with me.

When we had finally put a few miles between us and the mansion, James drove off the road onto a deserted lane. He stopped next to a beautiful grove of pine trees. He spread a blanket under the trees and retrieved a picnic basket from the car. Stretching comfortably across the blanket, he propped himself up on one arm and stared into my eyes.

The scene was so restful. The scent of pine was heavy. I lay back on the blanket. The feeling of a mission accomplished and a job well done was satisfying—but what mission had we accomplished?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Take Me Away! (5)

(This story is fiction--VERY loosely based on reality.)

Inside the stately white mansion, the walls sparkled with prisms of light. Beautiful mahogany steps curved upward to the balcony hugging the huge chandelier that resembled a shower of crystal raindrops. To our left was a large room, crowded and noisy with people. As we entered a woman’s voice called, “James, there you are.”

A tall woman in a black silk dress, diamond brooch and sparkling earrings, approached us. She had the beauty of one who has aged gracefully and has always known how to make the best of what nature dealt to her.

“Where have you been keeping this lovely lady?” she chastised James. “We have all been waiting to meet her.”

As she led us to the closest group of people, James leaned over and said, “Oh yes, by the way, today you are a writer with a bestseller about to hit the market. Can you pull it off?”

“Of course,” I said wondering where all my panache was coming from. I smiled and braced myself for the first introduction.

Sometime during the party, James disappeared. I was enjoying the attention so much, I had not noticed his absence. But now, I scanned the room for him as I listened to the Duke tell about his ancestral background which he felt would be a wonderful topic for my next book.

Had James left me? How would I get home?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Take Me Away! (4)

(This story is fiction--loosely based on reality)

“Casey,” he said softly, leaning over my tub full of bubbles. My pulse quickened. “Are you sleeping? You look wonderful in there but you must get out now. We have much to do.”

I opened both eyes. The deep masculine voice with the British accent sounded familiar.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Bond,” he said smiling broadly, “James Bond.”

“What are you doing here?” I sank a little lower into the tub.

“We can talk about that later. First, don’t you think you ought to get some clothes on?” He grinned and handed me my robe.

Coming out of the bath into the bedroom, I was completely bewildered but deeply pleased. He was here—finally. All of my wondering and dreaming was coming true. I dressed quickly in the white crepe dress laid out for me. I looked in the mirror pleased with what I saw as the dress accentuated all the curves I thought I had lost to childbearing.

Hurrying downstairs, I met James in the foyer. He held a white fox jacket for me as I slipped into it. I could smell the wonderful scent of his cologne as I nestled against him with a sigh.

“Now, now,” he teased. “We must be on our way.” I whisked through the door he held open, grateful that we had not left through the rain forest in the kitchen.

His black Astin Martin glided smoothly over the country roads as the suburbs disappeared behind us. We turned down a lovely tree lined lane that led to a large white mansion framed by huge white pines. A man dressed in a crisp white jacket opened the car door and helped me out. James took my arm and together we entered a great hall.

I was awestruck, but where were we?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Take Me Away! (3)

(This story is fiction--loosely based on reality.)

I reached across the bed and grabbed the phone.

“Hello,” I said warily,

“Hi! This is Cathy,” a cheerful voice said. Great. Cheerful chatty Cathy who never lets anything get her down. Her cheerfulness was rubbing salt in all my morning wounds. “I called to tell you that Mothers’ Club is canceled this morning. Our speaker is ill and the officers decided to postpone the meeting until next week.”

“Thanks,” I said glumly and hung up. I sat looking at one stockinged foot and one bare foot. Should I finish or should I just put the sneakers and jeans back on?

A brilliant idea crackled over my brainwaves. Aha! That’s it! What I needed more than anything else was a bubble bath! A long soak in a foamy, silky bubble bath.

Unplugging the phone, I went into my bathroom and began to fill the tub with steamy hot water and mounds of bubbles. As I slipped into the delicious water, I cried, “Calgon, take me away!”

Relaxed, with my head resting comfortably on my bath pillow, I began to sense I was not alone. I opened one eye slightly. My heart began to pound. There standing next to the tub was a strange but wonderful looking man.

He was meticulously dressed in a dark blue three-piece suit that accentuated his broad shoulders and slim waist. Dark hair, dark eyes, and a strong jaw added to his mysterious charisma.

I closed my eye again. What do I do now?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Take Me Away! (2)

(This story is fiction--loosely based on reality.)

“Mom, you just took the luggage rack off the top of the van,” one of the boys said groggily.

“Can’t worry about that now,” I said making a mental note that I should count to 20 before putting foot to pedal.

One eye on the rear view mirror and the other scanning the usual radar outposts, I sped along. What, I wondered, would life be like without kids? There used to be a life before kids but my memory was foggy. I was sure there would be life after kids, but it seemed too far off to imagine. I felt trapped in time.

I congratulated myself as I finished the trip to school and back with no major catastrophes. So far my sanity seemed intact. Now I needed to check on Sandy and Timmy.

As I laid my keys on the counter, I noticed it was raining in the kitchen. Sandy will need her umbrella, I thought. But—that’s strange—it isn’t raining outside.

“Oh no!” I screamed and ran upstairs to the bathroom. The door was closed. Towels were rolled up and pushed against the threshold. On the door was a note that read, OUT OF ODOR.

“Timmy used the toilet and it happened,” Sandy said.

“Thank you,” I said weakly, knowing she had done the best she could. I turned to the linen closet and grabbed the rest of the towels to toss on the river that had run down into the floor register, across the heating ducts, and into the kitchen cupboards below.

With hasty hugs, I shoved the last two kids out the door for school and wheeled around to go upstairs and assess the flood damage. The towels had done their job. Good. I only had a few minutes to get dressed for the mother’s club meeting. At least maybe I can get some sympathy there, I thought.

The phone rang.

One leg stuck in my panty hose, I hobbled to the ringing phone and sat on the bed. Please don’t let it be the school calling, I prayed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Take Me Away!

(This story is fiction--loosely based on reality.)

It was one of those mornings. You know—the kind where Murphy’s Law rules all. My three teenaged boys assured me they were awake, but fifteen minutes later when the caffeine from my second cup of coffee finally jerked me into awareness, I realized I did not hear the clumping sound of overgrown feet making their way to the kitchen.

Racing upstairs, I pulled the covers off each of them and did the old knuckle-twist-in-the-belly-button routine to make sure they were up. As the angle of their bodies became more perpendicular to the floor, I started for my own room to dress. Obviously, I would have to play the role of bus driver this morning.

Acting more like a cattle driver than a bus driver, I herded the boys to the table for a quick bowl of cereal and a little super glue for the eyelids. Undaunted, I marched into my younger children’s rooms and rousted them. Sandy and Timmy hit the floor running with the enthusiasm only the very young can muster early in the morning. At least there was some hope left for getting everyone to school on time.

“Now look, Sandy,” I said setting their cereal bowls in front of them. “You are going to have to keep after Timmy so he won’t dawdle this morning. I have to drive the other boys to school and I won’t be back until it’s almost time for your bus to come. Can you do that?”

A gleam came to Sandy’s eye. Of course she could do it. Having permission to boss Timmy around was a dream come true.

I counted three bodies slouched in the back seat, then hit the button to open the garage door. I gunned the engine. As the van shot out of the garage, I hear a strange crack and the sound of metal hitting cement.

What was that?!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bond, James Bond

I've been doing a little cleaning out of old files. The contents have held some fun surprises. They are stories and essays I wrote so long ago that I don't remember penning the words. Some of them have potential. With a little updating and the right market, they might see publication. Others are either too personal or too crazy to consider submitting.

I'd like to share one of the crazy ones with you over the next few days. It's fun but a little outdated. You have to understand...well, hopefully you will...that I have always had a big crush on Sean Connery. I am not a swooner or groupie but I don't know what I'd do if I actually met him face to face sometime.

Connery is the only James Bond as far as I'm concerned. None of the others had the style or charisma or charm that set him apart. It still does in his other roles as well...and, yes, even with less hair.

So, with that in mind and remembering that I had five kids running around the house at the time I wrote this....well, you'll see...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I love my daughters-in-law. I have three. Two of them are the mothers of my three grandchildren. (The other is a mother-to-be.)

This morning I received a picture of my grandson holding his first work of art from preschool, a huge proud grin on his face. So much of him reminds me of my son at that age, but something in that grin touched the place in my heart that loves my daughter-in-law.

I finished my e-mail messages and hopped over to my Japanese daughter-in-law's blog. She posts pictures almost every day so that the family in Japan can see what our granddaughter is doing. She writes in Japanese and the Alta Vista Babel translation is sometimes hilarious. (Instead of wetting her pants--she's potty training--is says she leaks.) Today there is a picture of her being silly. It's the silly face I see her mommy giving her when they are playing and laughing together. I love finding my son in some of my granddaughters actions and appearance, but my heart fills with love when I see my daughter-in-law there as well.

And now I await the arrival of the fourth grandchild. I can be confident that s/he will have qualities of both parents and because of the special place in my heart for this daughter-in-law as well, I know I will love all those qualities.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Countdown to Baby Launch

We are waiting for another grandchild to arrive, the first for this couple. The arrival date is set September 30, but as most of us know, babies make their own decisions usually. This one will be a trip of some distance for us so we will probably not be able to be there when the baby is launched into this world.

It feels strange to have to keep saying "the baby," but our son and his wife have decided to wait until he or she arrives to know if they are having a boy or girl. Nowadays, it seems that everything in the stores is pink or blue or trimmed for a boy or a girl because almost everyone knows what they are having before it arrives. The suspense is killing me.

The other little item to mix into the suspense and drama of this expected event is that they live in Miami and this is the middle of the hurricane season.

"Not to worry, Mom," they tell me, "our prenatal course included information on emergency home delivery."

Katrina has already kissed Miami before destroying the Gulf Coast. Lee wandered out into the ocean and disappeared and now Maria is winking at them. I just hope that the baby's name won't end up being the same as one of this season's hurricanes because s/he is born during one.

You see, I had no idea there would be any kind of connection when I named Rob's brother Andrew. Andrew hit Miami a few years ago, not too far from where Rob and Leah live today. Thankfully, Rob was in Australia at the time when the storm named for his brother hit. But then Rob always managed to dodge Andy's punches when they were kids too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 17

[Gwen: I hope today's post offers the hope you seek. It is so hard to leave our children in God's hands. There are several places in the Bible where we are told not to be slaves to fear. It doesn't say we won't worry now and then--just don't be a slave to it. God bless.]

I mentioned inheriting a worry gene from my mother. Actually, I think she taught me how to worry. She also taught me that worry can bring on a lot of health problems. Life is too short to raise stress and anxiety levels over things that are not within your control.

There are times when my mother's voice comes quietly over my shoulder reminding me of some of the things she found important to teach me. I can't put on makeup without hearing her say, "Don't have a heavy hand. You look so much prettier with less."

One day, before Cheryl completely abandoned us, she and her husband came to the house to do laundry. Cheryl had a basketful of towels to fold. Her husband wanted to get done faster so he pitched in and grabbed a towel. He folded it in half and in half again and yet again and set it in the basket. Cheryl grabbed it, shook it out and said, "That's not the way you fold a towel."

"So, show me how," he retorted.

She promptly folded it in thirds lengthwise and then in half twice.

"Where did you learn to do that?" he asked. Cheryl nodded in my direction.

It was a little thing, but what a sense of pride it brought me. She may have gotten her pretty physical features from her biological mother, but she learned to fold a towel from me.

That simple scene has played out in my mind often. I cling to it as evidence. If she learned to fold a towel from me, then there are other things she learned as well. I'm certain that my voice comes over her shoulder now and then. Perhaps some day she'll choose to follow it. Or more importantly to follow God's voice that calls out to her heart. If she would only choose to become a part of His family, to bond with Him, I would truly rejoice.

[This is the last post on Adoption Bonding. I hope you all have found it helpful. Thanks for encouraging me to share my story.]

Monday, August 29, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 16

For a long while, I felt like a failure. Surely, I thought, there was something I could have done--planned more mother/daughter activities, taken more time to listen, hugged more, laughed more...

By God's loving grace, I finally began to see through the fog of agony that enveloped me. Cheryl had become an adult--granted, not necessarily a mature adult. She was going to make her own choices in life. I could no longer choose for her or protect her from bad choices. I had to let go...and let God take care of her. That's a difficult decision to make.

By letting go, I faced not knowing what was going on in her life. There were times I didn't even know where she was. I had to field questions from family and friends: "How is Cheryl? What's she doing now? How's the baby?" Questions I had no answers for. Questions that made me feel like the world's worst mother.

Worry is a mother's worst nightmare and believe me, I inherited the biggest worry gene from my mother. It took a concentrated effort to give that up to God as well. I have absolutely no control over what Cheryl does with her life. (Let me reread what I wrote--you see, I have to keep reminding myself.)

But did I/do I have any influence? Were those 14 years she allowed me to be her mother wasted?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 15

When we went before the judge to make our adoption of Cheryl and Don final, Cheryl was asked if she wanted to be a part of our family--she was only six. She answered,"I want to be a Robbins forever and ever!" And then promptly hid her head in Bob's jacket.

At twenty-one, when Cheryl was asked by the judge at her divorce hearing if she wanted to return to her maiden name, she said no. She chose the name of her biological family instead.

It hurt.

Something happened in those teen years that I still do not understand. Maybe it was something that was there all along and we just didn't see it. Hindsight tells us that we should have had counseling for her and us. We just thought that loving her, caring for her, providing a stable home and family was all that was necessary. We never thought that perhaps the "baggage" she carried from her young life would stay with her.

Looking honestly at the way I relate to my children, I have to say that yes, there is a difference. The twins being the oldest were our "learning experience." Kids don't come with a manual and we certainly learned by trial and error with them. Andy came along and was a whole different personality from the beginning. And, having those three as babies made our bonding experience different than the adoption experience. Don had handicaps to deal with and Cheryl was a girl--now that in itself was all new territory. There is no way to love each child the same. No two children are exactly the same. (I can speak from experience since my husband is an identical twin and quite different from his brother.)

We have raised three young men who are functioning as solid, loving, independent adults who love their family. Don is living "independently" in his own apartment and wouldn't dream of abandoning the family. Had I failed as a mother with Cheryl? Why had she abandoned us?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Don's disabilities were an obvious outcome of genes. The speech patterns from his father were too similar. We had always been told that there were probably some genetic conditions that lent to his motor skills being poor. There was just no disease that doctors could put a finger on that would have contributed other than a slight case of cerebral palsy.

Today, I can see how environment has helped Don. He grew up with a supportive family that encouraged him to stretch his skills and overcome the disabilities as much as he could. He is living independently with the help of our county board of mental retardation, and the support of his family, friends, and church. He's developed Bob's sense of humor. The bantor between the two is amusing and keeps Don's wit harp.

But what about Cheryl? She was in the same environment but yet, instead of seeking to make herself independent and self-supportive, she has chosen to live much the same way her biological parents have. I mentioned the similarities in her life to her biological mother's life. Without knowing beforehand, Cheryl followed the same path.

Cheryl's birth mother was also adopted. On another visit to her birth family, Cheryl was taken to a nursing home to see her birth mother's adoptive mother. Cheryl's married a man (now divorced) with mental disabilities although not as severe as her birth father's. And...Cheryl's first child (and more recently two more) was removed from the home by children's services.

Why was there such a difference between the way Don responded to the environment of our home and the way Cheryl did? Personality? Different genes? Why had we bonded so well with Don and not with Cheryl?

Sunday, August 21, 2005


At the risk of confusing you, I need to jump back and forth a bit here to explore the genes/environment issue. When Cheryl turned 18, she hit a breaking point in her emotional problems that had built up through the teen years. She determined to leave our home and seek out her "real" parents. She felt this would be an answer to all that troubled her.

In the process of "finding herself" she met a guy, got pregnant, and then got married. Just as I was beginning to think that she was settling down, she announced that she had found her real parents. She invited us along to meet them for the first time. The place we found them in was a relative's home that looked just like the place described to us by the social services when they took Cheryl and Don.

The rundown house sat in the middle of an automobile graveyard. I skipped over the first step on the porch for fear my foot would go through the rotted wood. Inside, the floors looked like they had not seen a vacuum in years. Boxes of stuff--newspapers, old junk, ????--were piled up agains the walls. A small computer desk sat in one room amidst the boxes and a large screen TV was in the living room across from a dirty looking couch.

The house was filled with a dozen relatives, all of whom seemed happy to ignore Cheryl, her husband, and us--even the baby. Don had chosen not to go. It confused him to think that he might have a second set of parents.

We met Cheryl's biological mother and I could see where Cheryl's physical features had come from. Then we met her father. When he spoke, I recognized Don's speech pattern immediately.

I had put together a book of pictures showing significant times in Cheryl and Don's lives. I tried to include pictures that didn't have Bob and I in them. There was no need to remind them that someone else had been there instead of them. They set the album aside and were much more interested in showing Cheryl the pictures of when they were little and living with them. It was good, I told myself, Cheryl needed to see pictures of herself as a baby.

We left before they were about to serve cheese sandwiches. I'm sure they were good but they came from a kitchen that was full of trash and grease and...well, you get the picture. Cheryl and her husband stayed on. I was later to learn that they spent the night. I shuddered.

The obvious learning disabilities and retardation that the social services had reported to us during the adoption process were there. The conditions of the house were the same. But Cheryl's head was to be filled with stories of how the children's services unfairly took them and the authorities were lied to by other family members who were trying to stir up trouble. Later Cheryl would find out from another relative these stories were fabricated and she eventually lost faith in her "real" parents. The strange thing was that she never gave us credit for telling her the truth.

As the relationships within the biological family unfolded, we were surprised at the similarities between Cheryl's life and that of her mother. Genes? Coincidence?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 12

Having raised my older boys from babies, I was accustomed to touching them and they were familiar with my touch. I knew how to hold them when they needed it. I knew what soothed them when they cried. I had no knowledge of that with Cheryl and Don.

I could perch Don on my lap but when I tried to cuddle him, he responded stiffly. Cheryl didn't like to be held. She would sit on Bob's lap long enough for a story but then she was off and running again. There just wasn't the physical kind of touching, holding, cuddling, that there would have been if they were babies. And, I wasn't sure what might have transpired in the biological or other foster homes that may have made them feel uncomfortable being held.

Much later we were to find out that children who have difficulty bonding are often those who have trouble cuddling, being held. This isn't just with adopted children but can also occur with biological children. Unfortunately, we learned this too late with Cheryl. If I were to give any advice about problems with bonding with your adopted children, I would say get some counseling for them and you. By the time we learned our lesson, Cheryl was 18 and refused any help.

While Don still is not terribly affectionate, he does give us awkward hugs and pats on the back. Sometimes it's hard to sort out what might be a bonding problem or just a result of his developmental handicap or just the fact that he's all grown up now and acting like a teenager--even though he's 27.

Throughout Cheryl and Don's childhood, there was always a question of nature or nurture. Did they respond a certain way because of their genes or was it because of their environment?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 11

It took a major sibling brouhaha to wake me up to the fact that I was treating Don and Cheryl differently than my other children. I don't remember what it was about but I stepped in to squash the commotion. I was about to punish the older guys and gloss over what Cheryl and Don had done when I realized what I was doing. I was treating them as though they were guests in our home--not our children.

I meted out the punishments equally, sending everyone to their rooms. After I thought about it for a while, it was probably the biggest step I'd taken in those first few weeks to integrate our two new children into the family. All five were suddenly on an equal footing with Mom. It changed their relationship with each other. No longer were the boys walking on eggs around Cheryl and respecting her space. She was an equal. She could be the target of sibling tricks or be just as guilty as the next one in breaking the rules. They still tended to protect Don, but I think that had more to do with his disabilities and his age as well as male bonding.

There was still one area of bonding however that truly bothered me.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 10

When you bring a newborn baby home, you begin a slow process of learning their needs and how to meet them. When you bring home older children to assimilate into the family, they come with a ready made history, good and bad, and a much different list of needs. As time went along, I became more aware of how unprepared I was even though I already had children who were older than Cheryl and Don.

I think I was more exhausted when my two new additions to the family moved in than when I brought my twins home. The babies you could put in a crib for a nap and sit down for a few minutes. Cheryl and Don were beyond the nap stage and were energized with the excitement of a new home, new family, and new activities.

Not knowing exactly what they might do or get into, I kept a vigilent eye. One afternoon, they went through the kitchen, drawer by drawer, to see what was in them. I wondered if this was their way of getting to learn the new house--after all, it was the seventh different home they'd been in during the last three years.

My constant vigilence caught up with me, however. One day they decided to sit on the floor in one spot for a few minutes and play. I plopped on the couch to watch them. I wanted to observe how they played, see how they interacted--basically, absorb all I could to truly get to know them. With no warning, I fell asleep. No nodding. No fighting heavy eyes. I was just asleep. I have no idea how long but I awoke with a start, fearful of what I had missed and where my new children were.

There was no need to fear. They sat on the floor at my feet, staring back at me, as curious about me sleeping as I had been about their play. It was the first time in a week or so that I actually began to feel comfortable with my new responsibility as their mother.

But, soon I would realize that I wasn't being a mother to them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 9

Perhaps it was the excitement of packing their worldly possessions, but this time Cheryl didn't seem to mind leaving Sherry and her foster sisters behind. We put their few boxes in the back of our car and they began their "good-byes" to Sherry and her family.

I turned to Sherry as we were ready to leave. Her eyes were misty.

"How do you do this over and over again?" I asked. My heart was hurting for her.

"I take a 'timeout'," she responded. "This time will be easier than others. Usually I have to give the babies or children back to the environment they came from knowing that they will proabably be back in the system again. This time, I know they will be with a good family who will love them and care for them. It'll be easier."

We waved good-bye and started on our way home. I wasn't sure if they truly understood this was THE DAY. There would be no coming back. We began singing in the car.

"Donny was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a Sycamore tree for his Savior now to see...And Jesus said, 'Donny you come down for you're going to your new home to stay'." It didn't all fit the song but I made it up as I went along.

When we arrived home, the boys helped us get Don and Cheryl settled. We put things in drawers and hung stuff in closets. Then we sat down to dinner and for the first time, it began to sink in. This was it. I was committed. They were here to stay. No turning back.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 8

[Apologies to you regular readers. I am on the road and my wifi connection has not worked properly. I'm now connected through blue tooth and dh's cell phone--basically a dial up that sometimes doesn't work. Please bear with me.]

Cheryl delved into my collection of old formals and played dressup for the weekend. Don busied himself with the boys and the hot wheels cars--we had a hard time keeping them out of his mouth though. He was still like a two year old putting things in his mouth.

We spent a couple of months shuffling the kids back and forth from their foster home to ours. Each stay was a little longer. Each separation from Sherrie a little harder for Cheryl. We were finally to the point where I was Mommy and Sherrie was Sherrie.

Sherrie sat down with me at one of the last overnight stays. She was experiencing some problems with Cheryl acting out. She was sure that Cheryl was just frustrated with the upheaval in her life and suggested that maybe we could talk with the social worker and move our placement date up a bit.

The social worker was in agreement and Cheryl and Don were scheduled to be placed with us October 3. As the day approached, the excitement built. So did my expectations. I was so sure that just having them in our home all the time, getting into a routine, would meld us magically as a family.

Magic is something found only in Harry Potter books.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 7

Cheryl cried and clutched at Sherrie not wanting to let go. Sherrie set her down but she clung to Sherrie's legs. My heart was breaking. I was torn between wanting to mother her and yet feeling her pain of separating from the mother she knew now.

We had started to get the kids to refer to us as "Mommy Sherrie" and "Mommy Karen" with the intention of eventually dropping the "mommy" from Sherrie's name. The problem was (I think) the kids had been shuffled to so many homes in three years that they had no idea what a "mommy" was other than the woman who took care of them. Sherrie's home was the 7th foster home in three years and we were the fourth home in that year where they were placed.

With some more gentle coaxing, Cheryl gradually let go of Sherrie and we got her interested in something in the house while Sherrie slipped out. Cheryl never let us know when she missed Sherrie. I'm sure she did, but she made no mention of it. Perhaps she assumed that was it. She was here to stay with a new mommy and daddy. And in her young mind, I'm sure she wondered "How long?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 6

Cheryl seemed satisfied with her examination of me and we played some more before eating dinner. Whatever had transpired in those few moments is still a mystery to me.

Our boys were enamored with the idea of having a new little brother and sister.

"Just think," I said to Andy. "You won't be the baby anymore."

There was silence. I turned in my seat to see if one of the twins had a hand over his mouth. He was studying his hands.

"It's kind of nice to be the baby in the family," he said quietly.

Wow, I thought. What do I do now?

"Andy, you will always be my baby. Don will be my little one." (This weekend, the little one will be 27 and my baby is 31. They still enjoy the distinction I made.)

Andy brightened and the chatter continued all the way home.

We gradually increased the time that Cheryl and Don would spend visiting us. They came to our home for a long afternoon and then again for an overnight stay. Andy had volunteered to share a room with Don so we shifted beds among the boys, putting the bunk beds in the largest bedroom for Don and Andy. Rob made out in the deal. He got a new bed.

Cheryl got a new bed as well. We purchased a white canopy bed with dresser and nightstand. I busily set about doing a pink room. While it wasn't a pink nursery it was still fun putting together something for a girl.

They arrived in the early afternoon. Don bounced out of the car immediately when Sherrie opened the door. Cheryl, on the other hand, slid out very slowly and clutched Sherrie's hand all the way into the house. It seemed strange. When we had parted the last time, Cheryl had seemed very eager to come back and spend the night. Now she didn't want to let Sherrie go.

Was I in for a troubling time?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 5

Cheryl informed me that she could take care of herself. I held the door shut for her. I didn't want her to latch it and force me to crawl under it if she couldn't get out.

Altogether, we spent about two hours with Cheryl and Don. When we returned, we planned our next visit where our boys could meet their prospective brother and sister.

Sherry and her husband had cordially invited us to a backyard BBQ where the kids would feel more comfortable and could play together. It was interesting to watch our boys interact. They were quite comfortable with Don. They could do all the young male bonding things--play with Hot Wheels, throw and catch a ball, etc. When it came to Cheryl, however, they were stymied. They had no clue what you did with a six year old girl. Their girl cousins were all their own age.

Cheryl and I began playing together, running in the grass, kicking a ball, playing 'keep away.' I fell and rolled on the ground and suddenly found Cheryl on top of me. She sat on my stomach and peered into my eyes. Her crystal blue eyes stared into mine while time seemed to stand still. It was as if she were looking into my soul--looking to see who I truly was. Would she like what she saw?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 4

The waiting didn't last long. We were contacted and asked to consider a sibling group of four girls. One, who was 16 did not want to be adopted but wanted to be near her sisters. They went to another family who lived closer to the sixteen year old. When we received the news, it was with the invitation to come and see a video of a brother and sister who had just become available for adoption. (See The Presence of His Spirit posts).

After viewing the video and talking with their foster mom, we made arrangements to meet Cheryl who was 6, and Don, 5. We went to the foster parents' home a little more than an hour away from ours.

Don was all smiles. He proudly shared his cars and trucks with us and brought us books to read. Cheryl was a bit withdrawn, clinging to Sherry, her foster mom. Eventually, she ventured forward, fingers in her mouth, and let me read a book to her. Both kids perked up when Sherry suggested we could take them to McDonald's for a burger and fries.

We were having a good time at McD's. The two were wolfing down their hamburger and fries like they'd never been fed (something I was sure was not true). Then Cheryl said she had to go to the bathroom. Bob looked at me and smiled.

"Guess you get to make bathroom trips now."

With our three boys, Bob had asssumed the major restroom responsibility once they got too old to take to the ladies room. He wasn't entirely off the hook though. Don indicated, in his garbled speech (Don is developmentally handicapped), that he needed to go too.

Once inside the ladies room, I suddenly felt awkward. She's too old to need help, isn't she? Do I go into the stall with her? Do I let her lock the door?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 3

Whenever we talked about a family, Bob and I had always said that if the first two babies were the same sex, we would adopt the opposite to round out the family. Thus, we planned on three children. God has such a sense of humor...

With twin boys and a single birth resulting in another boy, we set out to find an adoption agency to begin a search for a daughter. The first attempt (when our youngest was two) fizzled when the social worker heard my children's voices in the background as I spoke with her on the phone.

"We're not accepting applications from people who have already been blessed with children of their own," she said stiffly.

I felt chastised. How could I have the audacity to ask for more children when there were couples who were childless? In my naivete, I hung up and did not pursue the issue further until the twins were 12 and Andy was 9, and I was much more savy about adoption and it's fit for our family.

I had no desire to adopt a baby. Bob would have loved it. He's the "baby person" in the family. I wasn't ready to take on diapers again and extend our initial parenting term another 10 years. We set out specifically to find a girl between 3 and 8 years of age. The other parameters we set included adopting special needs such as learning diabilities or slight retardation and/or a sibling group of 2.

We found an adoption agency in NE Ohio that dealt with "hard to place children" and began their orientation program. They explained the types of abuse the chidren placed in the system had experienced (basically: sexual, physical, and/or abuse from neglect). The other form of abuse came from just being "in the system"--shuffling from foster home to foster home, often for years.

The other part of their program was to get us to evaluate our strenghts and weaknesses as a parent. Could we parent a child who had been a thief? Sexually active? Usesd foul language? Was hyperactive? We discovered some things about each other that we didn't know before. I thought I could handle a thief but not someone who had been sexually active. Bob was just the opposite.

All this led up to our "white glove" home study, which really wasn't so bad. Then, we waited...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 2

As I looked through the window at the newborn cribs, I anxiously awaited news of my baby. The nurse returned to the back of the chair and began wheeling.

"Your little one is keeping all the others up." She gave a little laugh. "They put him in a private room with the lights out hoping he would fall asleep."

She opened another door that led to a room off the nursery and there he was, soft little sobs shuddering his body as he fell asleep. We left him sleeping so that I could get some rest before the nursing schedule began early in the morning.

They let me sleep until 6 a.m. before they brought Andy in for his first feeding. The disappointment of not having a girl faded with one look at the beautiful infant God had blessed us with. He was pink and perfect. And just to be sure he would wind my heart around his little finger, he immediately cradled his head against my cheek, cuddling into a little ball of baby softness in my arms.

The bonding grew with each of my babies as we interacted, "talking" to each other, touching, exploring the world together. They made me feel needed and, in return, I did my best to meet their needs.

That bonding was easy. They were so little and so dependent upon me. But what would happen when I became the mother of two children, already past diapers and bottles, and with their individual personalities already formed--partly from the abuse in their lives?

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Gwen commented on my previoius post about bonding with older children during the adoption process. I'm not an expert but I can tell you what I experienced and maybe that will help.

Cheryl was 6 and Don was 5 when they were placed in our home. We had three biological children, all boys. Ron and Rob were fraternal twins aged 12 and Andy was nine. I always tell people the reason we adopted was to have a cheerleader before we got a whole football squad. Don was a bonus. We would never have split siblings.

I remember the bonding process with my babies. Even though I delivered them and they were biologically mine, I felt a little awkward at first. Part of that was due to just being a new mom. They were lucky I knew which end the diaper went on. But as I cared for them, bathing them, feeding them, rocking them to sleep, I got more comfortable, it didn't take long before I was truly loving these little bundles--even through the crying in the middle of the night.

Then Andy came along. He was supposed to be our girl. Back then, 31 years ago, we didn't have the privilege of being able to know the sex of the baby through a routine ultra sound. The best the doctor could do was say his heart rate sounded like that of a girl (poor guy gets a lot of teasing about that). I was thankful he was healthy but, truthfully, a little disappointed that we didn't have a girl.

Down the hall, in the nursery, I could hear a baby crying as I lay in recovery waiting to go to my room. The cry sounded a little familiar. I dismissed the idea that it was my baby. After all, how could I know a cry I hadn't heard yet? As they wheeled me to my room, the nurse stopped to let me see him. He wasn't in the regular nursery. I panicked...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 4

The question tumbled out of me.

"Sherry, you're a born again believer in Christ, aren't you?"

There. It was out. I held my breath as I waited for her response. It came quickly.

"Yes, I am. I have the feeling the two of you are as well." She was smiling and suddenly we were drawn closely together by the bond of a shared belief in a loving God who directed our lives.

"I want you to know," Sherry continued, "that our church has been praying for Cheryl and Don since they became available for adoption. We have prayed that a Christian family would find them and adopt them. You are an answer to our prayers."

I'd never considered myseslf an answer to prayer before. This was why God had so obviously directed our lives to this point. The three of us had felt his presence. It was as if He had physically placed his hand on our shoulders. By the prompting of His spirit I had sought the confirmation of Sherry's faith and she had received the answer she sought to her prayers for Cheryl and Don.

Our meeting took place 22 years ago. The presence of His spirit has been a comfort and a guide through good times and difficult situations as we parented our five children. His continued reassurance that I am never alone and that He loves me is a comfort always.

"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 3

My heart beat rapidly as fuzzy static turned into a picture on the TV. A very active six year old girl and five year old boy scurried back and forth in a playroom on the screen.

"What beautiful hair she has," I remarked. We had a difficult time seeing Cheryl's face. She managed to keep her back to the camera most of the time.

"He loves those trucks, doesn't he," Bob observed as Don, typical boy, was wearing out the knees of his pants pushing trucks across the floor.

The tape ended and I wished for more. They looked like wonderful children.

"As I told you before, Cheryl has some learning problems and is in a special kindergarten class," Joy began explaining. "Don does not talk well yet, and we know that he is delayed in his development. He is in a special Easter Seals program."

"What kind of progress could we expect from Don?" I asked.

"We can't tell you. We don't know. When he is nine or ten, they will be able to assess his future progress a little more successfully."

Sherry had been watching us as we viewed the video and talked with Joy. She removed some papers from a folder she brought and laid them before us.

"I thought you might like to see some of their school work." There were crayon drawings and kindergarten work sheets--mostly just marks on paper, although you could see the beginnings of some writing skills on Cheryl's work.

Sherry shared some of her experiences with the children in her home and answered questions about Don's language development. The more she talked, the more I began to feel I knew her somehow. I was certain we'd never met. Could the familiarity just be our common bond of motherhood?

The more we talked, the stronger the feeling of a bond grew. I became distracted from our purpose--unsettled.

"I have to leave for a moment," Joy said pushing her chair back. "I have a phone call to make. Excuse me."

We continued to talk for a few minutes. There was an urgency within me to ask a question I had never asked a total stranger before. I could feel my face redden with the anxiety as I opened my mouth to inquire...

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 2

"I have someone I'd like you to meet," said Joy, our social worker as she entered the room with papers in her hand. She turned to a young woman with long curly brown hair. "This is Sherry. She has been Cheryl and Don's foster mom for the past four months."

Bob rose and shook her hand. "Hi, we're glad to meet you."

Sherry took a seat next to Joy across the table from us.

"Sherry wanted to come and tell you a little about what she's experienced with the children and answer any questions you might have about them," Joy continued. Sherry smiled at us with warm brown eyes.

Joy turned on the VCR and adjusted the television. "Let's have a look at Cheryl and Don first and then we can fill you in on more background...let you ask questions..." She fiddled some more with the controls and the machine finally responded.

We leaned forward to get our first look at the children that would soon become ours.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit

(This story took place in 1983.)

Bob and I sat in a small conference room at a formica topped table next to green metal filing cabinets. The room was cheery in color but institutional. The social worker had stepped out for a moment to find the video tape that would introduce us to a brother and sister who were available for adoption.

We were a little nervous and very excited. Could these be the children God wanted us to have to finish our family?

Before we were married, we often talked of our dreams of a family. We both expressed a desire to adopt children who needed a loving home. So, when God blessed us with twin boys and then another boy three years later, we elected to adopt a girl to round out our family.

For two years we searched for an adoption agency who would accept us. Often we were turned away because we already had three children. We also wanted an agency with whom we could feel comfortable and confident.

Eventually, we found what we were looking for right around the corner from where we lived. They were an agency for hard to place children--children with siblings, disabilities, or older than three. We attended their orientation sessions and finished a home study. A social worker was assigned to us, and now we were about to meet two children that the agency felt would fit into our established family.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Shark Encounter 4

Everyone was still except for the bubbles escaping from their regulators as they exhaled. I looked toward the divemaster. He pointed two fingers at his eyes (the signal for "look"), then put his hand to the top of his head, fingers extended straight up ("shark"), and pointed to my right.

In the blue murkiness, between two large coral heads that rose like ghosts from the ocean bottom, a large shark was poised--watching. She looked us over carefully and when she was convinced there was no food, she turned and glided away into the blue gray shadows.

I watched in wonder. No panic. No racing pulse. Just awesome fascination and appreciation of a creature I'd never seen outside of glass walls.

Back on the dive boat after we surfaced, the shark jokes were replaced with fish stories. The divemaster proudly estimated the female shark at 8 feet. Of course, underwater everything appears about 25% larger than it really is.

Exaggerated fish stories aside, it was an encounter to remember.

Shark Encounter
Shark Encounter 2
Shark Encounter 3

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Shark Encounter 3

"This dive site is near the area where we do our shark dive. We have a chance of seeing a shark or two in the area," the divemaster began as we motored to our destination. My heart thumped harder in my chest.

"Now...understand that we would not be taking you somewhere we didn't feel was safe. If you see a shark, you'll be fortunate." Fortunate was not the word I would have chosen.

"The sharks are Caribbean reef sharks and they are curious critters by nature," the divemaster continued. "They will not let you get any closer to them than they want you to be. They usually take a look and then swim away."

As soon as he finished all the shark jokes started. "Remember," one fellow diver said to another, "you only have to swim faster than the slowest swimmer."

In the water, we gathered at the base of the guide rope hanging from the boat. The divemaster signaled, "Follow me." We began weaving our way through the coral heads. Colors were muted without bright sunlight to filter through the water and the water seemed thicker--dense.

I began to relax and enjoy the marine life that scurries past my dive mask. My head bumped into Bob. I looked around and realized everyone had frozen in place...

Shark Encounter
Shark Encounter 2
Shark Encounter 4

Monday, June 20, 2005

Shark Encounter 2

Our first day of diving in Freeport was exciting. The crew was helpful as we struggled with unfamiliar buckles on rented BCVs (bouyancy control vests) and worked our way to the diving platform on the boat. The challenge of diving is getting into the water without toppling over from the cumbersome air tank and weight belt hung on your back and around your waist while you shuffle across the deck with webbed feet.

Our first dive ignited the excitement of discovery as we explored coral heads teeming with small marine life and alive with color. The second dive of the day featured a small boat wreck that had been overgrown with corals and small marine vegetation. We leisurely explored all the nooks and crannies. I was very relaxed by the time we returned to shore. The anxiety of a close encounter with Jaws forgotten in the wonderful exploration of the sea life that had presented itself.

The next day, thick clouds dotted the sky making it look a bit foreboding. Still, the April temperatures were in the 80s and there were patches of blue sky between the clouds. We donned wet suits. The water would be a little cooler 40 feet down with cloudy skies...it would also be murkier...

Shark Encounter
Shark Encounter 3
Shark Encounter 4

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Shark Encounter

You always remember your first one.

"There's a shark dive available. Want to feed the sharks?" Bob asked as he perused the website of UNEXSO trying to decide which dive package we wanted for our trip to the Bahamas.

"Feed the sharks? I don't even want to see a shark." I'm not afraid of too many things, but visions of Jaws sent shivers up my spine.

"They put you in a chainmail suit and teach you how to use the shark feeding equipment. And...they'll tape the whole thing."

He was really pushing it, but only because he knew I'd refuse.

"Or, we could just go and be observers...watch someone else have all the fun." He grinned and I shot him one of my wifely looks.

"O.K., O.K. I'll be sure to tell them we don't want to be diving near the sharks." He turned back to his computer to reserve our four day stay in Port Lucaya that included four dives.

Two months earlier, we had finished our certification as open water divers. After being introduced to a beautiful underwater world in the Carribean, we were eager to explore it now at our leisure. UNEXSO (Underwater Explorers Society) offered a variety of dive sites and the special shark dive.

Diving with the sharks was for those of stout heart and steady nerves who liked to live on the edge. A group of divers kneel in the sand and watch as one diver feeds the 10-20 reef sharks that gather around.

Not long before our decision to go to the Bahamas, my son had assisted a professor from the University of Miami at Bimini, in a week long seminar course on sharks. He told us of being in the water, snorkeling with sharks around him, and suddenly realizing the professor was feeding the sharks to attract them for study. Just the stuff a mother wants to hear. He kept assuring me it was all right. They were only reef sharks.

To my understanding, they still had teeth. I was not comforted. I still wanted no part of diving with sharks.

I was in for a surprise...

Shark Encounter 2
Shark Encounter 3
Shark Encounter 4

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Laugher

Everyone has some kind of laugh. There are those whose laughter rings out deep and bellowing and those whose laughter is tight and restrained. But somewhere inbetween are those laughs that are warm, delightful, and often contagious.

It's the contagious part I like. It spreads joy. It says, "Join me and celebrate life." It's the laugh that the sit-coms welcome into their audience.

We have a laugher in our congregation. Her laugh is distinctive. At the very least, it makes you want to smile. What a lift it is to a weary spirit. I can't help thinking that it lightens God's day as well. I heard her this Sunday. While our speaker encouraged us with his words, her laughter encouraged us with the joy of a heart set free.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Of Mice and Men--Part 3

It was a busy Sunday afternoon. I was getting ready for a writers conference and Bob was getting ready for his annual trade show. The temperature climbed into the upper 80s and I wondered if the peanut butter had melted off of the mousetrap.

Being the great white hunter that he is, Bob waited patiently until about eight o'clock that evening. I heard the door to the garage open and close but didn't think much of it until a little while later, he came into the den. He was grinning.

"I got the little bugger." He said with pride. "I knew he couldn't get that peanut butter off the trap."

The way he said it though made me wonder if Bob hadn't struggled with just a little edge of doubt--a slight suspicion that his small opponent might be a little too clever for an old fashioned mousetrap. After all, this is the era of electronical everything--who would guess something as old fashioned as a piece of wood, a spring, and a metal bar would still work so efficiently.

So, to the electronics wizards of the world--those great white hunters--Do we really need a better mousetrap or is it the bait that counts?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Of Mice and Men--Part 2

Have you ever played Operation? It's the game where a body is pictured on a cardboard base and little body parts are in small cavities wired with an alarm. The object is to pick out the body parts with tweezers and not set off the alarm. It's a delicate operation.

I suspected our little freeloader in the trunk of the Miata had lots of practice with that game. The traps were picked clean and neither was set off until Bob picked them up. He, obviously, did not have a lot of practice with the game.

Undaunted and slightly amused, Bob headed for the peanut butter jar.

"Let's see him get this off the trap." Was that a maniacal chuckle I heard?

The traps were baited and reset. To be honest, I wasn't sure who I was rooting for in this contest. I much prefer D-Con. After eating it the mice usually just crawl away somewhere and I don't have to worry about desposing of the remains. I didn't want to actually see this clever little guy's demise.

Bob replaced the traps in the trunk of the car and returned with all his fingers intact and healthy. We waited...
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