"" Writer's Wanderings: 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Mary" Christmas!

Yesterday I used "Mary Christmas" as my theme for the Sunday school lesson I taught. I looked up the phrase "Merry Christmas" thinking it might have something to do with Mary, mother of Jesus. It didn't. It's an old English term that originally meant "pleasant." In England however, it has come to refer to drunken revelry so the Queen prefers to say "Happy Christmas."

Undaunted, I decided to wish everyone a "Mary Christmas." Our scripture lesson was in Luke and told of the angel appearing to Mary to explain God's plans for her. First he told her she was highly (most) favored. She had been faithful and obedient to God in her young life. He told her not to be afraid but she was talking to an angel who was telling her things that troubled her sense of humility. She was anxious.

Gabriel, the angel was patient and explained carefully how everything would happen. "Nothing is impossible with God," he told her. After all, her cousin, Elisabeth, was pregnant even though she was past childbearing years. Mary was reassured.

Finally, Mary says, "Let it be done." Yes, Lord.

So I wish you a "Mary" Christmas:

  • May you find favor with God. Seek Him to keep

  • Anxiety from overriding your life. Be

  • Reassured of His love. Then decide to serve Him. Say,

  • Yes, Lord.

With a "Mary" Christmas, you can't help but have a Joyous New Year!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let It Snow, Let It Snow. . .somewhere else

It's snowing. I know everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas but I sit and sigh as I watch the gray skies empty white fluff. I sip coffee and try to hate the fact that it's snowing. I watch the flakes fall--each unique in its creation. The snow builds up on the ground in soft piles of white.
In the quiet hush of the snowfall, I think of how God pads the fall when life knocks us down as if we were landing in a soft drift of snow. I think of how He covers the ugliness of life with the purity of His love like the pure whiteness of the new snow.

Okay, Lord, you got me. Let it snow.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Jesus and Santa

I don't believe Santa had anything to do with my children accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord in their lives. The Santa game we played taught them that Christmas was a time of gift giving and receiving. That opened the door to them learning that God's gift was salvation through Jesus and that they could receive that gift by realizing that they weren't good on their own. That they had to ask God to forgive them. In doing so, they could receive the gift of eternal life.

God gave us the gift of creativity and imagination. If we use it wisely, it can enrich our lives. Use "Santa" wisely.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Santa Dilemma

Is Santa a part of your Christmas celebration? He has been and still is a part of ours. Our adult children still receive their gifts from "Santa" although our grandchildren get theirs from grandma and grandpa. Santa visits their house, not ours, with their gifts.

Santa has always been presented in our family as the spirit of giving--not spirit as in personality or ghostly apparition, but as the part of our celebration of Jesus' birth that causes us to want to give just as God gave. And to recognize that this is a special occasion just as the three wisemen did with their precious gifts.

As our children grew, we stressed that the gift-giving part of Christmas, Santa included, was our way of learning to love others and express that love and remembrance. That is what Jesus taught--love one another just as he loved us. Our children's gifts to other family members were thought out. What would make Grandma smile? What does Dad need? (Over the years, he has collected 50+ pointy screwdrivers.) Sometimes my gift came in the form of a shelf built in a cupboard or a clothes pin glued to a stick to hold my recipe cards.

Santa became a game the older they got. I'm not sure at what age our kids became absolutely positive about Santa's real identity because whenever I caught that shadow of doubt, I said, "If you don't play the game, Santa doesn't bring anything."

Did my kids have a problem understanding that Jesus was not a game? That he did exist even though Santa was a creature of imagination? I'll take that on in my next post.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Christmas Story House

Thanksgiving weekend is always the beginning of the Christmas traditions in our house although there have been a few changes along the way as our family has grown and we have gotten older (ouch! did I say older?). Most weekends, we drag out the old favorite movies--A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation.

This year we added to the festivities by driving past the newly restored Christmas Story house in Cleveland. This is the house where the outdoor shots were made for the movie. The owner has renovated it on the inside so that it resembles the movie set rooms where the infamous Bumpuss dogs ran through the kitchen destroying the turkey dinner and Ralphie paraded down the stairway in the lovely pink bunny sleeper.

Sure enough, there in the front window sat the leg lamp in all its illuminated glory reflecting those childhood memories of Christmases past we share with Ralphie. I remember my mother telling my brother, "No, you'll shoot your eye out."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Scarlet and Gray

Yes, we were among the thousands who went to Columbus even though we had no tickets to the Ohio State/Michigan game. I have never seen so many people gathered for a Buckeye game in my life!

Everyone wondered how the death of Bo Shembechler would affect the way Michigan played. I don't believe it was a factor. He was remembered fondly before the game at both the band's skull session and during the pre-game show. One can only imagine the two legends, Woody and Bo, together once again, wearing their respective colors while they cheered on their teams.

So, it is on to Arizona for the Buckeyes. The only question remaining is the name of the opposing team. And, of course, the Heisman.

Go Bucks!

Friday, November 17, 2006


A true Buckeye fan/booster/alum knows what those initials stand for: The Best Damn Band In The Land. Every football Saturday played in Columbus starts with the "skull" session in St. John's Arena on the OSU campus. Actually, rather than a last practice for the band, it turns out to be more of a last minute pep rally for all.

The seats fill up fast (it's a free event) with the band parents and alum band members taking front and center. The excitement builds as the familiar "O-H" is answered with "I-O." Then the tingling begins in your spine as you feel the reverberations of the percussion section as the band assembles for their entrance onto the old basketball floor. Your pulse begins to match the tempo of the drums as they strain to be let free to the cheers and applause of all the scarlet and gray clad fans.

Tradition. There is much to be said for tradition. During his tenure at OSU, Jim Tressel has established a few of his own. First, it is mandatory for the team to attend the skull session and for one of them to speak to the crowd. At first I think some of them resented the intrusion on their pregame meditations, but now you see them getting as excited as their fans.

Then, after the game is over--win or lose, the team gathers at one end of the field in front of TBDBITL and sings the alma mater. Lately I've also noticed a few moments of prayer/meditation as well. That explains a bit about the problem Tressel had when he first got there and learned how to address the band. Unlike Woody, he had difficulty with the word damn. Listen closely when he says it. Does it sound more like darn band than damn band?

Go Bucks!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Woody Hayes Lives On. . .

As we watched the Texas game on TV earlier this fall, I suddenly sat up straight and yelled, "Honey! It's Woody!" There beaming out at us from our television screen was the indomitable Woody Hayes--or so I thought for a fleeting second.

Woody Hayes went on to football heaven back in 1987 where I'm sure he's coaching a team again beneath a grove of buckeye trees. He was a complex man, dedicated to his football team and, believe it or not, education. I remember his passion as he spoke to encourage our future teachers group to strive for better education--to be a part of the solution--and yes, I'm sure he said something about winning the game.

Mr. Roger Thomas, a soybean and corn broker from Tipp City, has found himself in the uncanny position of being a look-alike Woody Hayes. And he's having all kinds of fun with it! Thanks to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story, the mystery behind the look-alike has been solved. I thought maybe some well-meaning booster had hired him to evoke the spirit of Woody football but it turns out Mr. Thomas is doing it all himself. A big "Thank You!" to him for resurrecting some wonderful memories to spur us on to victory.

Three yards and a cloud of dust! Here we come! Go Bucks!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

That School Up North

This is the big week! The big game! The one all Buckeyes look forward to for the whole season no matter what the standings.

We went to school in the days of Woody Hayes. He never called it M-m-m. . . (gosh, just can't say it). He always refered to that other university as "that school up north."

I watched last week as Indiana played "TSUN". It was in Indiana's stadium. Our game with Northwestern was played in their stadium. Both were televised at 3:30 and we switched between the channels to watch the scores almost copy each other. What amazed me though was that the Northwestern stadium had a tremendous amount of scarlet mixed in with their purple. While Indiana's crowd had little blue and maize that we could see. As a matter of fact, at one point the shot of the crowd showed a lot of empty seats. Hmmm. Could the Buckeyes be better fans?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sentimental Effusions of the Heart

How many times have you heard a man end the conversation on a phone with the words, "Me too"? You know what's happened. The woman on the other end has just said, "I love you," and he's not willing to say those words and be overheard.

While reading Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, I had to chuckle at Abigail Adams. She was having the same problem with John albeit by correspondence not by cell phone. They were separated while John was off to Congress in Philadelphia. She missed him terribly and longed for him to write those words all wives want to hear from their men. Things were not simply written back then but her point was clear when she wrote, "I want some sentimental effusions of the heart. I am sure you are not destitute of them or are they all abosorbed in the great public."

I don't know if John answered properly but the story goes on that shortly thereafter, his correspondence to his wife was embarrassingly intercepted by the British. Not only was he more careful not to expose patriots in his correspondence, but I'm sure his "effusions of the heart" were veiled as well.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Founding Mothers

For our book discussion group this month, we are reading Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts (Harper Collins). It's a little slow reading because of all the quoting Roberts does from the correspondence of the women who "mothered" our founding fathers--sometimes even though they were the wives.

At the very start, my attention was captured by the story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. At age 16, she was left in charge of all of her father's plantations, an ailing mother and toddler sister while her father went of to Antigua to fight in the war and her brothers were off in England being educated. This amazing young woman managed multiple plantations, researched her best business opportunities for exports, and studied and researched how to grow indigo to become an important importer of indigo to Europe. (Indigo was used to make blue dye--especially for military uniforms). Eventually, after much trial and error--and ridicule, she succeeded in growing the indigo and extracting a dye from it. She passed along the seeds to some of the farmers around her in an effort to make South Carolina a source of important exports to England.

Needless to say, Eliza didn't have much time for the frivolities of life although her uncle did try to encourage her to lighten up. At age 22, she finally married Charles Pinckney, who was 45.

I understand that it was a different era, but for a woman--a teen-aged woman--to have been that successful and determined is truly remarkable for any period in history. I can't help but wonder if she didn't learn more than those brothers who were sent off to England for their education.

I read on. . .

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Courage--Michael J. Fox

Caught in a maelstrom of criticism and controversy, Michael J. Fox has exhibited the courage it takes to face some of life's most difficult challenges--first, his disease; second, public opinion. Issues aside, he has had to deal with a disease that will probably continue to gnaw at his quality of life and in the end, his very life. It's not a pretty disease. Putting yourself in the public eye when you can't control your body's physical movement takes an extraordinary amount of courage. No one wants to be that kind of poster child and yet, because of the public awareness he has brought, there will be greater understanding of the ravages of Parkinson's.

Public opinion always has two sides. One is supportive and the other tears down and can become ugly. No matter what side of the issue you stand on, you have to admire his determination to pursue his belief that this type of stem cell research is the answer. I wonder how many of us would have the fortitude to put ourselves in such a position given the same circumstances?

Agree or disagree, he deserves a round of applause for his courage.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Segway to the future?

Last week we were privileged to go on another cruise. (DH can't pass up a good bargain.) In Cozumel, we had the opportunity to try out the newer mode of transportation on foot: the segway. It was a real hoot!

We learned how to start it up and step on without wiggling back and forth. Then our instructor had us practice on an obstacle course of cones to get the hang of turning. Your natural inclination is to turn the handle bars but the turning mechanism is actually in the left handle bar. You rotate the handle left or right--slowly.

After about a half hour of practice we were ready to head out on an excursion. He took us down to a blue hole and then on to a beach where we had the option to snorkel. The sensation of moving along by simply leaning forward a bit and stopping by leaning back was exciting. After a while, we were actually able to stand in one place by balancing our weight--sort of like on a bike.

Unfortunately I would have to pass on a segway as my mode of transportation. It didn't exercise your legs much and I don't do well standing still for long periods of time. My toes started to fall asleep. So much for segwaying my way into the future.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Difference a Word Makes

We toured the Kennedy Space Center today. It made me feel old. . .very old. The tour guide told the kids and their parents about how people back in those days watched on TV as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Yup. That was me. We watched with our neighbors from the upstairs apartment.

Apparently there was a lot of consideration given to what he would say when he placed that first foot in the moon dust. NASA officials had actually written the words, “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong however, decided that he didn’t want to focus any attention on his accomplishment alone. It wasn’t just a man who was landing on the moon, it was representative of thousands of men and women working years to get to that point. When he stepped off the ladder, he omitted the little “a” before man and made it “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” In doing so, he included all those who had worked on the space project as well as those of us with him in spirit as we watched on TV.

What a difference that one little word made.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Word of the Day--oeuvre

Are you like me? Do you read along in books or articles and come across a word that makes you stumble? Depending on the level I'm reading, I often have to sit with a dictionary at my side.

Well, this morning, I was enjoying a second cup of coffee and perusing (I looked that up--impressed?) my new copy of Writers Digest. There was a great story about a new book, fiction, that gives an account of the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. It uses the author's extensive research to propose a theory of why he died. I was intently reading, or perusing, when I suddenly fell flat on my face as my eyes hit the word, oeuvre.

At first I thought it had something to do with hors d'oeuvres. After all, it has the word oeuvres in it. But no, they weren't talking about food. I tried to fit it into the sentence to figure it out and failed. Webster was all the way in the den and even though I called out to him, he didn't answer.

I shrugged it off, finished the article and went on to read another. Bam! there it was again-twice in the same magazine! Well, that was too much. I hauled Webster out of the den and flipped him open. Sure enough, there was such a word without the appetizing reference to food. According to Webster, oeuvre means a substantial body of work constituting the lifework of a writer, an artist, or a composer.

Hmmm. Makes sense. I was reading about writers. But it's close relationship to hors d'oeuvres has me craving chips and salsa. Go figure. Guess I'll peruse the pantry next.

Monday, October 09, 2006


It's election time. Are you tired of the ads yet? I am.

They are beginning to get down and dirty now. The other guy is never any good--doesn't matter how many other elections he won or what he may have accomplished on the way to the election, he's just no good. It amazes me the amount of money that is spent to tell me how bad the opposition is. Did it ever occur to the campaigners and their managers that I might want to know what makes them so good that I should vote for them?

We have one ad in our area that says some people just aren't right for the job and shows an obese man sitting in a chair, eating a donut and leading an aerobics class. Another says that the opponent had the audacity to defend child sex offenders. Huh? I thought everyone had right to an attorney. Isn't that what the public defenders' office is for?

Wouldn't it be interesting if for some reason--a law say--candidates were required to state only what their plan is should they be elected? They would not be allowed to say anything derogatory about their opponent only what they themselves have done to prepare for the job. The voters would actually have to make a decision based on whose plan of action, whose experience might be best suited for the job.

Wow. Now that's really dreaming.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Holy Hypocrites--Not These People

This morning I was reading about how the Pharisees were up in arms over Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath--a no-no. It broke the laws that said no one was to do any work on the Sabbath. As I read on I saw in his response the true hypocrisy in their claims. Whenever it came time to circumcise their sons, they did it right to the day--even if it was on the Sabbath.

Examples of hypocrisy are what often kept my parents from church. Once such incident was when a neighbor's son was scratched by another neighbor's dog. The dog was a companion to a thirteen year old boy, severely crippled by cerebral palsy. The neighbors who were faithful church-goers, threatened to sue. In addition to wanting the dog taken care of, they were trying to get money from a family that had little to spare.

When it was discovered that my grandfather had witness the incident and saw the boy teasing the dog with his jacket, the issue faded. But it had spawned a nasty phrase in our house, "Go to church on Sunday and punch your neighbor in the nose on Monday." Needless to say, it did not draw my family to church.

There was an incident this week, one in a terrible series. A gunman shot and killed five young Amish girls in Pennsylvania. I have been amazed and encouraged by these loving people who have lost so much--one family lost two daughters. In their grief and pain they have told a world of onlookers that God is good. They have reached out to the gunman's family and recognized their pain as well. They are living out their faith from Sunday to Sunday.

It makes me want to examine what I'm doing on Monday. Holy hypocrite? I hope not.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Word Surgery

I have been terrible about posting to my blogs lately. Part of the reason is that I am embroiled in word surgery. I need to cut close to 30,000 words from a novel I wrote and is being considered by a few houses for publication. One house said it was too many words (they prefer 60,000) and if I cut it down, they would reconsider. I'm always up for a challenge, I thought, and I've never had a problem cutting back on word content.

Well, it's been quite a journey in the "operating room" so far. I am having fun. I actually laughed out loud the other day at something I forgot I wrote. The trouble with word surgery is trying to decide what to cut out and what to leave in. I certainly don't want to kill the patient by cutting out a vital part and I don't want want to leave something in that is best cut out like a cancer. I have to truly ask a lot of questions before the "scalpel" selects and deletes. Maybe I should consider liposuction instead--just remove the fat.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

LPs and Vinyl Records

Whoa! Just when I was about to pitch my old LPs and 45s, CNN reports that vinyl records are becoming popular again. I didn't know there was anyone who owned record players anymore. We gave up long ago trying to find needles to replace the one turntable we had left in the attic.

Part of the story said that dance music was better on vinyl. Hmmm. Is that because they can scratch it back and forth as they rap to it? Or, that could explain why our ballroom dancing isn't as polished as it once was.

The vinyl craze seems to be spinning out of Great Britain. That makes sense. Afterall, they gave us the Beatles too. What's next though? An 8-track tape revival? Unfortunately that trend lasted about as long as Beta tape players did.

If you've wandered on to this blog and haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about, ask your parents. . .some of you may have to ask your grandparents. But I guarantee it'll be a great conversation starter and they won't lack for stories of the past vinyl/8-track/Beta era.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Prayer Power and Acceptance Letters

Last week was rainy and gray. The sun hid until Friday and even then I had to go south about 120 miles to find it. It also started out with a memorial to 9/11. Watching all those who had lost loved ones was a bit depressing. Then came the news that my daughter-in-law's grandfather had suffered a major stroke and wasn't expected to pull through.

I didn't know her grandfather--had only met him once or twice--but his stroke and her family's vigil renewed memories of my mother's death. Even though it was 22 years ago, it brought back tears. (The anniversary of her death was last week also.)

"I'm feeling as gray as the weather," I e-mailed my online writing buddies. "Having a hard time deciding what I want to write--what direction to take this week. I wish I could get just one acceptance letter for encouragement."

All were quick to cheer me on and pray but one in particular, Trish, wrote the most beautiful acceptance letter for me. It was written from God's point of view and how He accepted what I was doing for Him. My eyes filled as I read it.

I was also feeling apprehensive about major changes that are about to take place at our church. I'm getting to the age where change is a little more difficult to deal with sometimes. I talked with my writing buddies again about their churches and was encouraged by what Leslie and Cathy told me.

Toward the end of the week my spirit lifted. I made the trip to stay with my grandchildren while their mom and dad went to the funeral on Friday. They were so well-behaved and entertaining the whole day that by the time I left, I was feeling happier. Still, it was hard to see the pain of grief in my daughter-in-law's eyes.

By Sunday, I was excited about our Sunday school lesson, the antics of our pastor and Sunday school director in trying to allay the fears of change, and I was smiling comfortably as I exited the worship service. One of the members of the adult class I teach stopped me on the way out. He haltingly explained that he had been praying for me that week. He didn't know why the Lord had directed him that way but he thought I should know.

"That explains it!" I exclaimed. "It was a tough week but my attitude had surely changed by the end of it. Thanks so much."

His kindess in telling me that he had obeyed the call to pray for me was a welcome affirmation of God's love--sort of another acceptance letter.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11--Forever etched in my mind

I was seventeen. My mother had picked me up from school and we stopped at the donut shop so I could run in to get a dozen donuts to take home. The radio in the store blared the breaking news: President Kennedy had been shot. Mom said I looked as white as a sheet when I came out of the store. JFK had been an idol of sorts. The first president I learned to care about. I will never forget that weekend.

It was the morning of April 19, 1995. I was doing laundry. Two of my kids were at college. One was married and the youngest two were at school. I sat down in front of the TV to fold clothes when the breaking news of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City interrupted the morning programming. I watched in horror as people, bloodied and in shock, walked trance-like in the street until someone came to their aid. Then, the heartbreaking news: there was a daycare center in the building. How? Why? Who?

September 11, 2001. The last child would be leaving home soon. We were to spend the morning buying furniture for his apartment. Before I left, I sat in my sewing room (my daughter's old room) with a small television tuned to Good Morning America and worked on my quilting project. The phone rang. It was the church secretary with a question for me. I don't remember the question because as I turned to answer the phone, Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson announced the breaking news: a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I remembered pictures from a old newsreel I'd seen on the History Channel of the plane crashing into the Empire State Building. How odd I thought, history repeating itself.

Then the second plane hit. This was no accident. Anyone could deduce that. Why? Who? We would soon know.

I left the house, glad to have something else to do. I remembered how watching the Oklahoma City tragedy had affected me and I didn't want to experience the depths of that emotion again. . .little did I know. . .

Don and I shopped for his furniture and household supplies. Every where we went the stores were disturbingly quiet and most employees were glued to TVs or standing in the middle of aisles listening to the speakers that were filling hearts with the enormity of the tragedy.

We stopped for lunch at a pizza restaurant and I positioned myself where I could see the television. Suddenly the picture showed a tower collapsing, then the second one. When they replayed the scene I realized what I had missed in my morning's busyness. Don ate most of the pizza. In his limited mental capacity he didn't understand the implications of what was happening.

I dropped him off at home and hurried off to a funeral at church. On the way, I heard the news that the pentagon had also been attacked. I didn't realize then that overhead Flight 93 had turned away from Cleveland and headed for DC. Now a gnawing emptiness began to fill me. What did all this mean? Who? Why?

Those days immediately following were eerie. The noise of airplanes in the sky to which we had grown accustomed, suddenly was gone--the quiet was deafening. What would we do? Did this mean invasion? Did it mean, at the very least,war? Who? Why?

The whos of JFK's assassination and the Oklahoma bombing have mostly been answered as have the whos of 9/11. But the whys. . .will they ever have acceptable answers? What is it about the quest for power that drives men to kill, that drives one group of people to try to destroy another? I believe it all has to do with power--the need to control. The destruction, the death, will not stop until the need for power, for control over others is harnessed by spirits that seek peace and respect and love for each other.

Until then, I take comfort in knowing we are all in God's hands. I pray there will be no more dates like these etched in my memory.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher--Conclusion

Torn paper swung from the bulletin boards. The chalkboard was spattered with tempra paint. Broken jars of color spewed their contents onto the tiled floor. Desks were overturned and schoolbooks lay open where they had landed from their flight.

Jill's desk was still upright but books, papers, pencils, tissues, everything that had been on top of it was now heaped on the floor. In the corner behind the desk stood Cassie, her back turned to Jill.

"Cassie!" Jill felt her fury rise. As the child turned, the red ceramic apple, Jill's prized possession, slipped from her hands and shattered against the floor.

"What have you done!" Jill cried out as she surveyed the broken pieces of her dream strewn at Cassie's feet. Her face flushed and her cheeks burned.

Cassie stared at Jill and backed into the corner. She slid down the wall until she was curled into a ball, knees tight under her chin. Fear lit her eyes.

Jill started forward, frustration and anger raged. But before she reached Cassie something--the memory of another frightened little girl, made her stop. A tidal wave of tears cascaded down Jill's face. She dropped to her knees sobbing. Slowly she began picking up the broken ceramic pieces.

Cassie peered over her knees at Jill. Cautiously she rose, picked up the tissue box, and made her way to Jill. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm not a very nice person. People keep giving me away because I'm bad. My new mommy prob'ly will too." She handed Jill a tissue.

Jill looked up. She realized what had kept her from reaching out to Cassie. It had been her own fear of rejection and failure. She had been afraid to get too close to this child who reminded her too much of herself. The pain that she tried to shield herself from was mirrored in those large sad eyes looking at her now. Gently she took Cassie into her arms. "I can always get another ceramic apple. It wasn't nearly as special as you are."

For the first time, Cassie smiled.

An Apple for the Teacher--7

Jill spied Cassie sitting in her chair, head between her knees, shaking her head wildly about.

"Cassie," Jill said softly. She didn't respond. "Cassie!" Several students jumped as she shouted. Jill crossed the room, took Cassie by the hair and righted her in her seat.

Cassie stared at Jill defiantly at first, then hung her head as though repentant. Jill was shaking. She had never handled a child so roughly before. What was she to do? She couldn't get Cassie to finish her work. Her attention span was next to nothing and she was like a jack-in-the-box jumping out of her seat every five minutes.

"Cassie, this paper is not finished. You must do the whole picture and be neat. Learning to color in the lines is as important as getting the answers right."

Jill's anger grew. doesn't this child appreciate what she has? Doesn't she want to impress her new mother? The pangs of jealousy hit hard. Jill wished she had a mother with whom she could share the excitement of her teaching award. A mother who would be proud of her and encourage her.

After lunch, Mr. Bridges introduced the visiting committee from the state PTA organization, his comments made Jill feel guilty about her reaction to Cassie. "Mrs. Passep is an outstanding teacher. Her students leave this classroom each year working well above average. She takes time to get to know each student individually."

All but Cassie, Jill thought. How could she be jealous of a little six year old? It was ridiculous--ridiculous but true. Resolving to make a concentrated effort to reach Cassie in spite of her feelings and Cassie's difficult behavior, she arranged to have some time with Cassie after school to help her catch up with her work.

"Please finish up that paper, Cassie. Your mother will be here soon to pick you up. I'm going to the office for a moment. I'll be right back."

Jill let out a hissing sigh as she walked down the hall. This was a waste of time. Cassie had spent a half hour on a paper that should have taken ten minutes and she still wasn't done.

An envelope poked out of Jill's mailbox in the office. She grabbed it and tore it open. The letter explained that Jill was one of ten educators being honored at the state PTA convention. One of the ten would be the state's nominee for the national award. Jill's heart pumped faster. As she walked back to her classroom she read the questionnaire that was enclosed.

Jill was so distracted she failed to notice the paper on the floor until she stepped on it. When she reached down to pick it up, her eyes caught a glimpse of the rest of the room. She gasped.

(Continued. . .)

Friday, September 08, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-6

"Tom, I'm sorry. I had a difficult day with a new student and I took it out on you." The newspaper rattled as Tom turned the page.

"Well it seems to me you should be able to separate work from home. After all," he added, "isn't that what you expect me to do?"

"I guess I deserved that remark." Jill paused. "It's just that I feel everyone at school epects me to be able to handle any situation that comes along. But this student is so demanding of my time and attention. . .I can't let the other kids down to pamper one child." Jill ignored what really bothered her most about Cassie. She had a mother who had chosen to love her. It was a relationship Jill would never know.

Tom peeked over the newpaper as Jill's eyes began to well with tears. He put the paper down and reached for her hand. "Look, what was all that hoopla about the other night? That big red apple you earned? Doesn't that tell you something? You are a very capable teacher. You will find a way to reach out to that child. I know you can do it." He stood and hugged her. "Now, let's go enjoy that great dinner I smell."

She appreciated his confidence but on Monday morning, her doubts began to overwhelm her once more.

(Continued. . .)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-5

Tom was so preoccupied with his expected promotion, Jill felt neglected and left out. She was sure their marriage was headed for trouble.

"Hi, Hon. How was your day?" Tom stalked through the kitchen and pecked at Jill's cheek as he passed by. He doesn't want to know how my day was, Jill thought. That was just an announcement of his arrival.

Their relationship was too predictable. Had she grown dull? Maybe that was why Tom drew deeper into his work.

Tom returned to the kitchen and investigated dinner. "Heard a good one today." He popped a piece of carrot into his mouth. "Seems Steve and Julie have decided to call it quits. Steve says the spark is gone. Julie said she wouldn't fight it. Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

"No, not really," Jill replied tartly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Jill could almost see the chip on his shoulder. Well, she was just the one to knock it off. "I'll tell you what that means. Men do not want to work at marriage. The minute it takes effort to keep the spark going, they get lazy and decide to bail out."

"Is that the way you feel about me too?"

"If the shoe fits. . ."

Tom grabbed the newspaper and stormed out of the room.

Jill sank into the nearest chair. Why had she deliberately provoked him? All she wanted was a little reassurance that their relationship was alive and healthy. She couldln't bear it if Tom left. Tom was the only one who had ever loved her. She had to find some way to east the tension she created just now.

Jill rose slowly, took a deep breath and headed for the family room.

(Continued. . .)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-4

It began to rain as Jill's meeting with Mrs. Marquette ended. Jill gathered papers to grade and turned out the lights. Gray clouds filled the sky. She shivered in the light misty cold while she fumbled with her car door. That day had been gray and rainy too, Jill remembered, as she pumped the gas pedal to get the old yellow Volkswagon started.

She had fought hard to hold back the tears as she struggled up the steps of the children's home, rejected and alone again. A "forever family" was what the case worker had said. Well, forever didn't last long. It was all right though, she told herself. She was eleven years old. She could take care of herself. She didn't need a mother and father. They would only boss her around and tell her what to do . She'd make it on her own.

And she had. Jill let the VW rest for a moment. It was probably flooded again. She glanced in the mirror. What did Cassie have that she didn't at that age? Jill remembered her school pictures. She wasn't beautiful but she was cute. Cassie on the other hand was homely and her personality wasn't the least bit pleasing. How had Cassie attracted an adoptive family and Jill failed?

Well, Jill thought, as the VW roared to life, I have Tom--that is as long as he still wants me.

(Continued. . .)

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher--3

As Jill greeted Mrs. Marquette, she recalled the pictures she had poured over as a child. Each one had reflected the image of an ideal mother; the kind any child would be happy to have. Mrs. Marquette could have posed for all of them.

"We are so excited," Mrs. Marquett said, "now that Cassie has been placed with us for adoption."

For a moment, Jill blocked out what this picture book mother was saying. The word "adoption" had cut through Jill, hitting an old wound. She sat stiffly in her chair as she listened to Mrs. Marquette describe Cassie's numerous foster home experiences and the original neglect Cassie experienced in the birth home. Mrs. Marquette was concerned about the strange behavior that had resulted.

"Mr. Bridges recommended you highly. I am confident Cassie will adjust to your classroom and we will see a lot of growth and development in her this year," Mrs. Marquette said as she stood to leave.

As she shook Mrs. Marquette's hand, Jill felt her shoulders grow heavy as if the load Cassie's mom carried was shifted onto her now. Could she carry it?

(Continued. . .)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher--2

Cassie seemed to draw deeper into herself as the day progressed. Jill sensed a real challenge to her teaching abilities as she observed her new student.

When she wasn't wandering around the room as if in her own little world, Cassie sat and chewed her fingernails. She didn't even attempt her schoolwork unless Jill stood next to her and coaxed. During the week, Jill found the extra attention Cassie needed quite taxing. Cassie needed to straighten out--soon.

The class sensed Jill's tension and took advantage of it. With a sigh of relief that Friday had arrived, Jill opened the door for the students to run out to the waiting school buses. Maybe with a fresh start on Monday. . . , Jill thought. She eased into her chair.

"Hello." Mr. Bridges, the principal, appeared in the doorway. Jill stood and realized that he was not alone. "This is Mrs. Marquette, Cassie's mother. She'd like to talk with you about Cassie."

(continued. . .)

Monday, August 28, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher

Every so often I get ambitious and begin going through old files to see if there is something I wrote a while back that is worth resurrecting, rewriting and submitting. Here is a story that I thought my blog readers might enjoy. It's timely since school is starting all over the USA now. It was originally written in 1987--on a typewriter!

An Apple for the Teacher

It was ceramic. Without pencils sticking out of the top, it might be mistaken for a real apple. Jill set it on her desk afraid should she drop it, it would shatter against the hard schoolroom floor. The apple represented a long hard road traveled and held the prospect of better things to come. She wasn't superstitious, but she didn't want anything to happen to this honored trophy bearing the words "Jill Passep, 1987 Educator of the Year."

Jill's morning routine was interrupted by the school secretary at the door. "Mrs. Passep, this is Cassie." The secretary smiled as she nudged a very shy six year old girl into the room. "She was just enrolled and Mr. Bridges felt you would be the best choice for her teacher."

"Hello, Cassie." Jill crossed the room greet her. "Let me show you around the room before everyone else gets here."

Cassie barely glanced at Jill. Her eyes seemed focused on the ceramic apple on the desk. Jill directed her toward the bulletin boards, the collection of leaves and bugs on the table along the window, and finally to the supply cabinet where she found Cassie the books and worksheets she needed.

Silently Cassie accepted the school supplies from Jill. She shuffled to the desk Jill assigned, stored her things, and sat quietly with her hands folded awaiting her classmates.....

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Poor Pluto!

What are they doing to the solar system?

If you haven't heard, Pluto is no longer a full-fledged planet under new guidelines that redefine the qualities of a planet. There are now 8 planets and 4 dwarf planets, including Pluto.

Pluto has been classified a planet since its discovery in 1930--long enough for most of the population to have had to memorize it along with the other 8. My favorite way to remember them and their order is: Mary's Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights Period.

Now, I ask you, how can you have a sentence with out a period? Perhaps the way they name the other dwarfs will lend itself to more punctuation...Exclamation Point

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cruise-ing on his own.

What is happening in Hollywood? Lindsay Lohan gets a reprimand from a director and now Tom Cruise is set free from Paramount!

"It's nothing to do with his acting ability. He's a terrific actor," Viacom chair Sumner Redstone is reported saying. "But we don't think that someone who effects creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot."

Of course Cruise's publishing partner's response is that he quit first.

I have to say, Redstone is right. Cruise's behavior does affect the way he's perceived on screen. It took me more than half of the recent Mission Impossible to separate the character from the personality. I kept thinking, "What a jerk."

I'd like to think this is the beginning of Hollywood cleaning up its act but I'm not that naive. It's a start though.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hell Has a Zip Code

You read the title correctly. Hell now has a zip code. It’s KY1-1400. The hot little burg in the middle of Grand Cayman island along with the rest of the Cayman islands now has a zip code. It seems the citizens of Cayman were having difficulty receiving packages from online orders because the country did not have any zip codes so the government applied zip codes to all the little towns and areas of the islands.

Ivan Farrington runs the little establishment in Hell and sells postcards for you to mail to friends and family. He dresses in a devil costume and tells devilish jokes upon request. His new postal stamp will sport the new zip.

Yes, Hell now has a zip code…but it’s still closed on Sundays. Hmmmm.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Worry-Free Parrot Fish

Diving in Cayman the other day, I couldn’t help but be amused once again by the colorful parrot fish of the Caribbean. They are brightly multicolored mostly on a turquoise blue background with a mouth that looks like a beak—thus the name parrot fish. They go along crunching on rocks and then excreting them. Know those sandy beaches you love? The parrot fish helps make them.

While this may seem like a mundane job, the parrot fish seems to be quite happy in his lot in life. With all that roughage, he’s probably not constipated which certainly helps his mood. When you see the parrot fish from the side, his eye looks bright and clear and his “beak” is shaped like a smile. Rather than swimming along, he seems to skip through the water making him appear carefree and happy-go-lucky. You can almost hear him singing, “Don’t worry. Be Happy.”

Ah, yes. The Caribbean. Even the fish are happy!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How Hot Is It?

I knew it was hot when the A/C started running almost continually.

I knew it was hot when I couldn't walk barefoot across our wood deck.

I knew it was hot when the kitchen windows were fogged up on the outside because it was cooler and drier inside.

I knew it was REALLY hot when the Canadian geese started cooling off in the mist of the neighbor's sprinkler.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mona Lisa Speaks?

She's always been a mystery but now a Japanese acoustics expert is claiming he knows what she sounds like. Dr. Matsumi Suzuki measured the face and hands of the famous Mona Lisa. and created a model of her skull. Somehow with all those calculations, he figured out her tone of voice.

He claims the voice he has created is 90% accurate. Because the lower part of her face is quite wide she would have a lower voice but the pointy chin would add mid-pitch tones. The voice he has created says, "I am the Mona Lisa. My true identity is shrouded in mystery."

All of this leads me to wonder if the voice of Mona really is that low, perhaps it is something of a self-portrait of DaVinci. Or is it just an early version of Marlena Dietrich?

(Apparently at one time there was a link to the voice but I was not able to connect to put the link here. If anyone finds a working link, please leave a comment with the link. I for one would like to hear the old girl talk.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Crazy Baseball Statistics

We watched the Indians win over the Detroit Tigers last night at the Jake. Normally I don't watch all the statistics and biographical notes they post as each player comes to bat but last night, my eyes wandered to the scoreboard as Travis Hafner came up to bat. A blurb appeared next to his batting stats. It was another statistic. He has hit the most career home runs for a player from North Dakota second only to Darin Erstad.

And I need to know this because...???

Where do they come up with all this stuff? I can understand batting averages, ERAs, etc. but do I need to know how a player compares to other players from their home state? I spent a little time at Google and found that the Elias Sports Bureau is the official statistician for MLB as well as most other sports venues. Once they get the stats down, all sorts of available software can quickly scan them and put them together in any sort of comparision you'd like.

Did you know about the O-zone factor? Me neither. It is data that measures a team's success at scoring runners from second or third base as well as it's success at preventing the opposing team from doing the same thing. Is this what I've been destroying by not giving up my aerosol hairspray?

I'm waiting for the next statistic to go something like this: "Now here is the only left-handed batter with six toes who has astigmatism in the right eye and has hit five times against a pitcher who is right-handed, less that six feet tall, missing a toe on the left foot, and has a hangnail. He hits one into center field. A way back. Waaaaay back! That ball is outta here!"

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mommy, What's a Book?

"Mommy, what's a book?"

"Well, honey, a book was something your grandmother used to read to me. It contained stories of faraway places, funny animals, and goofy things that happen to kids. When she went to school, she had to buy books for her classes so she could study from them. I remember her telling me how wonderful it was to hold a new book in your hand and touch it's crisp new pages as you explored the story inside. She said the paper and ink of a new book was like a perfume to those who loved to read."

"Mommy, what's paper?"

How many decades down the road will it be before books are obsolete? I mean real books with printed pages between a book cover. Books on tapes/cd, e-books, ipods, and probably a dozen more gadgets I've never heard of yet are becoming more and more popular. Technology seems to change doubly fast as we speed into the future.

Will there be a paperless society? Did Henry Ford's generation seriously think we'd ever build a space station? It's dizzying to think of the possibilities for the future.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


No, those are not ghosts who write but rather people who usually remain anonymous while writing books for/with another person who most likely has some celebrity status or is well known in a particular field. They are not named or necessarily acknowledged as having contributed to the production of the book. They are paid for their work with a flat fee or some other type of contract that may allow for a portion of the sales.

This week on the writers' forum to which I belong, we have been discussing the ethics of the practice. Some say it's a business and ghostwriting is just another way to pay the mortgage. Others are concerned that it is unethical and deceptive to not mention the ghostwriter somehow, i.e. using the "author's" name and "with" or "as told to" the ghostwriter. (Some of Tom Clancy's recent books have added an extra name.) In the Christian publishing arena this has become quite a debate. Some "authors" have accepted awards for writing their book when it was actually ghostwritten. Ethical? Business? Part of the job?

There are some famous people from the past, Corrie Ten Boom and Dave Wilkerson among them whose books were ghost written. Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer use ghostwriters as well to some extent. Hilary Clinton's book It Takes A Village was actually ghostwritten by Barbara Feinman. The novelization of Star Wars was actually written by Alan Foster not George Lucas.

For those of you who are not writers, I would be interested to know how you would feel if you purchased a book only to find out later that it was written by someone other than the proclaimed author.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Master Painter

Back in my college days (I was an art education major) I was required to take a series of art history courses. They always seemed to be scheduled at 8 a.m. and they always followed the same format: slides and a droning lecture. It wasn't easy to stay awake sometimes.

I did perk up when we got to Impressionists. I love painters like Renoir and Monet. But I was surprised when the instructor pointed out that many paintings were not done entirely by them. They would put in the basics and then their students, those they mentored, had to copy their style and, under the master's eye, finish the paintings.

For some reason that came to mind this morning. It was probably a result of a discussion on ghost writing on a writers' forum. A ghost writer often writes a book for someone else and many times does not get the credit for it. He is the master of the work, creating the framework of the story, putting the words together and making them come to life, but someone else gets credit.

If we see God as the master in our lives, we can choose to be like the student painters, copying the master, filling in what he has begun in our lives but giving him the credit. Or we can choose to be like the self-acclaimed celebrities who never credit their ghost writers, letting God set the framework, put together the story of our life, but not give him the credit and hoping that no one discovers how fake we are.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Red Paper Clip

It's all the buzz in the news. A young writer trading a red paper clip for a house. Well...there were a few other trades along the way. I think it's more a story of how publicity can work for you. Once the ball got rolling, Kyle MacDonald caught the attention of the media and after a few appearances on TV in Canada and on "Good Morning America," he was contacted by Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law and Major League).

It seems Bernsen was looking for some publicity as well. He offered MacDonald an item to trade on his blog: a speaking role in the movie he was directing. Give the kid (MacDonald) credit. He wanted to keep his quest legit so he kept Bernsen's offer in his back pocket until he could find something valuable to Bernsen to trade for it. He did--a snowglobe featuring KISS. (Bernsen collects snowglobes and is a KISS fan).

Meanwhile, a little town in Saskatchewan, Canada, named for the author, Rudyard Kipling, decided to get on the publicity bandwagon. They needed a boost for their dwindling town population and saw a way to draw some tourist trade. The members of Kipling's council bought a house and offered it for trade to MacDonald. In addition, they are going to hold an "American Idol" type audition for the role in the movie. More publicity now. More publicity when the movie comes out.

So how is MacDonald going to pay for the little things like heat, lights, taxes? He'll probably be bagging groceries at the corner store until his writing career takes off. It should do well. After all he's got the publicity thing down pat now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


It is always fun and interesting to see who is reading this blog. I use Sitemeter.com . It gives me general areas of where people live, what pages they've visited, who referred them to my site, and how long they stayed. I love to see the referrals from Google.com because they list the search words that led the visitor to me.

Yesterday I was looking over the statistics for Writer's Wanderings and found that someone had visited through a search for "water squeegies". That led them to my post about our flood. Now how many people search for water squeegies? Not many, I'll bet. I wonder if the searcher expected to find a story that drew an analogy to God cleaning up a life of sin?

I have never purposefully intended for this blog to be evangelistic. The only thing I intended to do "religiously" was to post on a regular basis. But God, Jesus, and my faith are all a part of who I am so if you've googled (that's a word in the dictionary now) something and you've landed here, maybe it was by divine appointment...and maybe not.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Panda Birthday

Happy Birthday, Tai Shan!

The National Zoo's baby panda is one year old today. From a tiny four ounces to a whopping 56 pounds, Tai Shan has certainly been well nourished by his mother and zoo officials. The tiered birthday fruitsicle must have been a real treat for his young taste buds.

Tai Shan's name means "peaceful mountain." I remember the angst when our grandchildren were due and needed names. Somehow Anglo Saxon names just don't translate as poetically as the Asian names. I wonder if the name was wishful thinking on the part of zookeepers? After all gaining 56 pounds in one year, he's on his way to becoming mountainous and wouldn't you want something that big to be peaceful?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Hoax

Last night was date night. We went to the theater to see Pirates of the Caribbean. I love watching Johnny Depp at work. What a great actor. He truly gets into character. The other thing I like about him is that he doesn't seem to be part of the outlandish Hollywood scene.

I was disappointed though, in the to-be-continued-ending. Two and a half hours of action, comedy, adventure, and no resolution. Do I really have to wait a year to see how it all works out?

The real reason for my post however is one of the previews shown before the movie began--The Hoax, starring Richard Gere. The scenes showed him at a publishing board meeting pitching his book and demanding a million dollar advance. The hook is that the book is a hoax--he is making it up as he goes along. He makes a comment to a friend, "The crazier I sound the more money they'll offer."

The Hoax is based on the story of Clifford Irving who wrote a bogus autobiography of Howard Hughes with the help of his friend Richard (Dick) Suskind.

Alas, Richard Gere is not paired with Julia Roberts this time, but the movie will be interesting. A new look at the world of publishing.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Ugly Duckling

Two white swans appeared this spring in a marsh area near our home. Each Sunday morning as we traveled to church, we would see bird watchers with binoculars and cameras spouting long lenses, observing the couple.

It wasn't long before the obvious happened. The couple produced an egg and it soon hatched. The offspring looks nothing like his parents. He is gangly, oddly fuzzy, and gray. He reminds me of Hans Christian Anderson's story, The Ugly Duckling.

Since I seem to be into analogies lately, I drew this one. A new Christian is like an "ugly duckling." He starts out eagerly following those before him. He's a bit awkward at times as he begins to learn scriptures. But before long, he becomes more graceful as he is filled with God's grace. God gives him a new look--clothing him in pure spotless white.

I will watch the little swan as he adapts to his world and I will think about how God is still feathering my life with his grace and remaking this "ugly duckling."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Flood of Thoughts

Last week during all the heavy rains in our area, our basement flooded. My Barnabas friends (a group of writers formed to encourage each other) tried to encourage me by saying, "You'll get through this. You're a writer and you'll even find lots of things to write about from this." At the time it seemed a little crazy. But they were right. There were a lot of analogies to be drawn from the experience.

As my husband and I used squeegies to push the sludge back into the sewers (they had gushed raw sewage into our fininished basement), I thought about how God cleans lives. He can, in an instant, clean all the filth that sin has deposited in our lives. Our cleanup took much longer and was not nearly as efficient.

Remembering the chaos that ensued when I realized the basement was filling with dirty water, I thought about how I frantically went through each room looking for what seemed most precious and setting it on higher ground. Later, as we went through boxes that were soggy, I pulled out a couple of old flower containers. They were not sentimental nor were they expensive but I was beginning to fight back. I wanted to hold on to some of those things--not throw them on the heap that was growing at the curb.

How often do we hold on to things that keep us from God--unimportant things--when He is trying to clean our lives of what keeps us from Him.

Then there were the goldfish. If they had stayed hidden in the rocks in the pond instead of swimming into the flow of the water that was receding, they would not have been left on the grass to die. Too often we go with the flow instead of standing with Christ, our rock.

Yes, my friends, there was much to think and write about.

Friday, June 30, 2006


What's it like to be green? Is it any more acceptable than a talking animal?

Those were some of the questions posed in the wonderfully produced musical, Wicked, we had the privilege of seeing last night. Light-hearted, adventurous, and filled with great music that enhanced the story, Wicked kept us enchanted by it's telling of the origin of the Wicked Witch of the West from Oz. It's a classic comparison of good vs. evil but perceptions are topsy-turvy. The "wicked" witch is green but the "good" witch is...blonde!

I was fascinated with how the tin man, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion came to be. I'm not sure how much of this is in the original novel, Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire. I started reading the book shortly after it came out in 1996 but lost interest. Perhaps I'll pick it up again if my reading list ever gets shorter.

For now I will just savor the memories of a well-staged, well-produced, and beautifully performed musical that proposed the possibility that green might be good and blondes...well, they have redeeming qualities.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Nemo Lives!

When I last posted, I had no idea what was before us. Thursday afternoon we had two storm fronts move in on us and for almost an hour the rain turned into a torrential downpour leaving much of our area flooded. Our backyard became a raging river, floating our 500# bridge away from what was a dry riverbed in our yard and wedging it between two trees. As I watched the water rise wondering if it would reach our basement windows and begin to flow in, I was unaware of what was happening beneath me.

Storm sewers filled and overflowed apparently into the waste sewers and for whatever reason of engineering, our basement became flooded with about 8" of filthy water. Our basement was finished so the damage is extensive and, needless to say, we are concerned about getting it cleaned up properly for health reasons.

My beautiful pond was full of muddy water from the creek that had swollen to emense proportions. When the water receded, I found my little goldfish speckling the yard. I ran the hose in the pond to flush as much dirty water as possible. It cleared some and I went about working more on the immediate problems in the house once the cleaning company came to extract the carpeting and help clean floors.

Today I headed outside for a breath of fresh air. I stood looking at the pond that was beginning to resemble normalcy. Suddenly a little flash of gold caught in the beam of sun shining down. Nemo lives! Amazing how God can take a little thing and bring hope for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Finding Nemo

Yesterday I was surprised to find a little goldfish (comet) in the small upper section of my pond. I didn't put it there. The comets I bought (after the blue heron dined on my old ones) I placed in the larger pond where they could go deep should the shadow of the predator pass over them again.

No, this little guy had to have traveled through the filter, then through the underground tubing (about 25 feet) to the top of the waterfall, pop out into the tub that fills and spills over the rocks, then slide or jump into the upper pond. Reminded me of Nemo. I wonder if he has a father looking for him in the large pond?

Eventually the little fellow will probably find his way into the stream under the bridge that leads again to the large pond--but what an adventure he'll have to tell! Makes me think of the trials in life--sucked into the darkness, not seeing our way, popping out into deep waters, over rocky cliffs, and bumpy streams but finding refuge in the big pond with our Father.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No Sweat!

Today I caught part of an interview with a dermatologist who was extoling the effects of botox on other parts of the body than the furrows in your forehead. They were discussing excessive sweating and how botox could be injected into parts of the underarm to control it. Yuck!

The best part of the interview came when the doc said, "Sweating is a good thing when done properly."

Properly. Hmmm. I didn't know there was such a thing as sweat-iquette.

Friday, June 09, 2006


There have been many times in life where things have happened or people have come into my life that seemed to be coincidence. I prefer to think of them as part of God's plan for me.

Yesterday at the writers conference, I sat down to lunch with a lady I didn't know who told me she was expecting an editor to lunch with her. I was excited when she told me I should join her. It was an editor who might be interested in one of my proposals.

A few moments later, another writer joined us, a man named Israel. Just as we were beginning to get to know each other, the editor came over to the table and led the lady away to another table where he was conferencing with other writers. I was disappointed. I thought that maybe God had planned for me to sit there and talk to the editor.

I smiled at Israel--he reminded me of one of my kids--and began asking about his writing and his background. He writes Christian sci-fi and fantasy and is a missionary to Jews in Israel. I could not believe my ears. Here was a man who could give me all the information I needed to fill in the gaps in a novel I have been working on for years. It involves a woman who falls in love with a Jew who has found Christ.

Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Yesterday I missed the mark (pun intended). I should have been posting about the ominous day of 6/6/06. Many are so superstitious about it that they even scheduled births either before or after the date to avoid the stigma to their child.

In the Bible, if the experts are correct, 666 is the mark the Beast, the Anti-Christ, will require people to wear to show their allegience to him. It will be imprinted on their foreheads. In the Left Behind series, the authors come up with another imprint, a cross on the forehead of Christians that can only be seen by other believers. I like that idea; an imprint that shows us as followers of Christ.

But perhaps we are overlooking an imprint that already exists. It is not embossed, engraven, stamped, or tattooed. It is the change in a life when one meets Christ and accepts him as Lord and Savior. It is the change that makes others wonder what's different.

A few Sundays ago, a man who had been married to a Christian woman for 40+ years before coming to the Lord himself told us that he had quietly, one morning while his wife was in church, accepted Christ. He didn't tell his wife for a few months what he had done. When he did, she countered with, "I knew it. I could see the change in you."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


For me, it's that time of year when I have to come out of my shell--the annual writer's conference. Knees knocking I approach editors and publishers and feed them my ideas in the hope that something in my arsenal will pique their interest.

Question is: how do you keep your palms from sweating when it's time to greet them with a handshake? There must be some good advice for that. I just haven't found it yet.

And then there's the networking--getting out there to meet new people and share ideas, accomplishments, and goals. Usually, that's done over lunch or dinner and hopefully, without a piece of spinach between my teeth.

Normally I'm not that shy about meeting new people but here at the conference that new face could just be the open door for a published work.

No pressure.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Canned Oxygen

More than once I've heard my husband say, "I wish I'd have thought of bottled water." Well, now the Japanese have beat him to the punch again with canned oxygen.

Oxygen spas/bars have become popular in many places. You can sit down and inhale flavored oxygen for a few minutes and walk away refreshed and de-stressed if you believe all the hype.

Now, in Japan, at 7-Elevens you can buy a can of "flavored" oxygen--grapefruit or mint. It looks like a fat can of hairspray and has a plastic mask attached so you can fit it to your nose and mouth and not loose any precious air to the...well, air. The cost is about $5 which works out to be about 18 cents everytime you inhale.

Apparently sales are rapidly increasing which means it won't be long before it will be on the shelves of our local convenience stores.

"Two bottles of water and a can of O2 please."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


When we sketched out the pond for the landscapers to install, I didn't think much about its size. I wanted it large enough to put some nice plants in it and some fish. As many things in life do, it grew bigger than I planned. It is a lot of work to keep it cleaned up and the alga under control (especially this time of year).

Today I looked out the window and was greeted by a beautiful water lily bloom. Its translucent blushing pink petals were opened to the sun drinking in its warmth. What a beautiful surprise.

Hard work has its rewards.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Does God Love an Atheist?

I ran across an interesting article about Julia Sweeney, a former SNL cast member (http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightings/archive_2006/0525.shtml). She quit the show in 1994 to go out on her own in Los Angeles. Shortly after, a series of tragedies including the death of her younger brother caused her to question and eventually give up her faith. She had been a practicing Catholic.

At first she came out with a comedy monologue called, God Said, "Ha!", implying that God had a weird sense of humor. Then when she finally gave up on God entirely, she put together a monologue called, Letting Go of God. The article describes it this way:

Furthermore, she finds that the Bible contains no satisfactory response to her personal tragedies. In a manner at once poignant and comical, she recalls her brother's months of "unspeakable suffering," comparing them bitterly to Jesus' relatively quick death and resurrection: "Someone once said: 'Jesus had a really bad weekend for our sins.'" As the Bible study course progresses, she finds herself turning away from the "bi-polar" deity found in the Bible's "nutty stories." Finally, she accedes to a little voice inside that has been whispering, to her horror, "There is no God."

The line that bothered me was "Jesus had a really bad weekend for our sins." A bad weekend? Perhaps Sweeney is only considering physical pain. She discounts mental anguish, verbal abuse, and a broken heart. Also discounted are the three days he spent in hell. Been there lately? No, neither have I but I can't imagine the horror of that. And, what is time? I can remember an auto accident when a few seconds felt like hours as I watched the windshield splinter ever so slowly before my eyes.

But all argument over whose pain was greater, Jesus or her brother's, aside, Sweeney isn't exactly the atheist she portends to be. After all, she named the monologue, Letting Go of God. How do you let go of something you don't believe exists?

Thankfully, Jesus spent that weekend...and more...because he loves Julia Sweeney too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Audio Books

For a long time I fought the notion of listening to a book instead of reading it. I didn't want my imagination to be tainted by the inflections of a reader, or the interpretation of the voices of characters. Then I started driving to Wheaton each year for a conference. I found it much nicer to listen to a book for six hours than to keep jiggling the seek button on my radio to tune in a station every 50 miles or so.

Now, I'm really into the audio thing. I always have a CD or tape of a book in my car. Sometimes it takes a couple of months to finish a book. (I don't do a lot of driving. I'm sort of chained to the computer at home.) I only get books that are non-fiction for driving around town. They are easier to find your place again when you haven't listened in a while. The novels I save for the long trips--like down to Columbus to visit the grandkids. I was tempted once to circle the block to finish off a good book but with those little eyes watching out for Grandma, I figured it wasn't a good idea.

I've learned to time the endings better.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

DaVinci Da Choice

I've always thought of life as a series of choices. You choose to follow an occupation. You choose a spouse, where to live, how many children to have. You choose what books to read and movies to see. You choose to believe...well, whatever you believe.

I have had an unusual amount of hits recently on a previous posting from over a year ago. It was about visiting Milan and viewing DaVinci's Last Supper--before reading Brown's code. It wasn't intended to open a debate. It was posted to say merely that I enjoyed the work of art and did not look for hidden meanings. That was my choice.

These are some of the other choices I have made:
  • I choose to believe the Gospels are true, written by men who walked with Jesus, saw Jesus and recorded what happened. When the Bible was put together, the criteria was that it be the earliest writings (less lost to memory) and from those closest to Jesus.
  • I choose to believe God had a hand in what was written in the Bible.
  • I choose, by faith, to believe in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
  • I choose, by faith, to believe that God chose to send his son, Jesus, to sacrifice himself in order to give those who believe the gift of salvation.
  • I choose, by faith, to beleive that Jesus rose from the grave to show us that we can have victory in life as well as death.
  • I choose to believe in that sacrificial act of love and the freedom God gives me to make those choices.
  • I choose not to remain anonymous in my faith.

[Check out The DaVinci Code: The Biblical Response]

Friday, May 12, 2006

Microsoft Robotic Mania

This week I spent several days in Las Vegas with my husband at a conference for Microsoft's Embedded Devices. At least I think that's what it was. I don't do well with the technical stuff. I went to spend some time with him, get rid of the distractions around the house so I could concentrate on some new book ideas, and yes, to enjoy the excitement that only neon Las Vegas creates.

Wednesday night was a special dinner for the conferees and guests at Tao's restaurant and nightclub in the Venetian. The entertainment for the evening was a robotic competition. Now when you say "robots" to me, I conjure up pictures of large people-shaped metal creatures with arms and legs and a voice that says, "Danger, Will Robinson!"


We stood on a balcony overlooking three large boxes with white rings on top of them. Men were paired off at each box and at the signal of the referee, they placed little square 8" boxes of metal parts in the ring and pushed a switch. When the program finally started running, little red lights flashed and the boxes began moving--sometimes in circles, sometimes straight for the competition. The winner was declared when his robot pushed the other robot out of the ring.

Men stood around cheering, jeering, and high-fiving. Huh?

Is this the future replacement for boxing, wrestling, and chicken fighting?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Farting Dogs and Meatball Weather

What fun to spend a day with the grandkids! We spent hours walking around the zoo having as much fun balancing on the curbs while we walked as we did in seeing the elephants and their friends. But the best part of the day was the quiet time we spent when we got back. We did my favorite thing--read.

Children's books have gone far beyond Dr. Seuss. The two good reads we did were about a farting dog that almost got sent back to the pound because of his flatulence and a town called Chewandswallow that never had to shop for food because it came from their weather every day. The dog saved himself from the pound by fending off some burglars--by farting, of course. But the townspeople had to desert their homes when their weather went haywire and gave them more than they could eat. When the weather said "Cloudy with meatballs" they ran for cover.

Ahhhh, what little imaginations will do with those stories...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Heart Blossoms

Have you been enjoying our spring this year? Are you like me and go outdoors and just breathe in the freshness that this time of year brings, especially after an April shower? It is like being set free from winter and ready for a new adventure as the garden begins to pop with color. I found a passage in Isaiah that kind of describes those feelings.

“Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.” Isaiah 35:1-2

The mountains of Lebanon are a beautiful place, snow-capped and greened with cedar trees. Waterfalls flow down the sides of the mountain, especially in spring as the snow melts back. Imagine the burst of color when the trees bloom with their reddish 2-4 inch long catkins—the blooms that produce the cones.

As mountains go, Carmel is not very high. It sits near the Mediterranean Sea. Anemones and cyclamen grow wild on the sides of the mountain. As you look south along the coast you look over the plain of Sharon with its fertile fields fed from the cool waters that flow from the mountains. What the joy that all that blossoming must bring.

We drive across the Cuyahoga Valley to church each Sunday. It is probably the best measure of the coming of new life that the spring season brings. While in the winter it can be beautiful with a fresh snowfall, when there is no snow, it is full of barren trees and brown grasses. Everything appears dead. But as soon as the weather begins to warm and spring rains and sunshine begin to comfort those dormant plants, the valley begins to show a tint of yellow green that turns into a deeper green speckled with white and pink blossoms as plants and trees burst forth in bloom.

That’s kind of like our lives many times. We feel barren, dead, colorless. But then God shines the light of his Son on us and rains down blessings and we blossom with new life—new hope. It is there in that blossoming dessert Isaiah says, that God will display his glory and his splendor.

My lilac bushes are just about to open up and grace my yard with color and fragrance. I’ve been watching them—expectantly. If, instead of opening their buds and welcoming God’s sunshine and rain, they remained closed and dried up, the glorious color and splendid fragrance God gifted them with would never be known.

Open your heart to God’s son and accept his rain of blessings and let his glory and splendor be shown in you.

As it says in Isaiah, “The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!” When our dessert flowers, our joy soars, and yes, we may even start singing.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Buy a Building Name

A recent news story told of a community that was selling the rights to name a school in their area. This buy-a-building-name craze is really spreading. What happpened to the idea that public buildings were named for people who had done something for their community, state, or country?

Our arena which is home to the Cavaliers used to be known as the Gund, named after the owner of the Cavs. I believe he helped build the place and certainly has contributed to our community. Now the fellow from Quicken Loans has bought the team and immediately the name of the arena changed to the Quicken Loan Arena. It is sheer out and out advertising--albeit expensive advertising. Every side of the building has a huge Quicken Loan sign in blazing lights. The side facing Jacobs Field (our ballpark) is prudently placed where it can be seen by most people in the stands and, when a home run is hit, stands a good chance of being seen by TV viewers.

And now we are going to sell naming rights to schools?

I would ask what's next--names for babies? But that's already been done on e-bay. Maybe we'll sell the rights to name the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building. After all, if it's all about revenue wouldn't that help add to the coffers of state and federal governments? Maybe lower taxes? Sure. Do you suppose someone would go for buying the right to name my house? I see mortgage payments disappearing with that prospect.

It will be sad to see this turn into a vanity or marketing ploy with all of our public buildings. Sad because it's a sign that we are loosing respect for the memory or appreciation of the people who never ask for anything in return when they contribute to society but are at least honored by their name being on a building or a monument or sometimes only a plaque on a wall--not even lit by lights.

Friday, April 28, 2006

T. Davis Bunn Shark Attack

When I first heard of the shark attack on T. Davis Bunn, author of the Lazarus Trap, I thought it was a joke--something to draw me into a new marketing ploy. Boy, those authors will think of anything. And then I checked it out. Sure enough, he was attacked while surfing near Melbourne, FL.

That is precisely why I would rather dive with sharks at their level than be floundering around at the surface like a wounded fish. It's an invitation to dinner.

The question that arises now is what will Davis Bunn do with this experience? As a novelist he is sure to incorporate his extraordinary encounter into his work somewhere. This is a guy who rides around in taxi cabs in New York just to get the feel for the cadence and color of a cab driver's language. As the story went at the writer's conference where he taught, he also got the lowdown on some other interesting aspects of city life and applied them to his novel.

But Bunn is also a Christian and I'm sure is thanking God for looking out for him. A hundred and twenty stitches later, I'll bet he's not thanking his lucky stars...he's thanking his Protector.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


This spring I am suffering for the lack of interest I took in cleaning out the flower beds last fall. They should have been weeded one more time before winter arrived. I remember looking at them and thinking--hoping--that winter's cold would kill them off.

Well, it didn't. Those weeds are tough old characters. As long as the roots are still in the ground, they'll grow back and twice as bad. Ask my aching legs and back.

When you're on your knees a lot (I've been at it for a week now), you begin to think about praying and other spiritual things. I couldn't help but see the analogy between the weeds I was plucking out of the ground and the weeds we let grow in our lives. If we don't keep the garden of our life weeded out, the weeds will take over and destroy the flowers and the beauty of that garden.

My sins of omission--not weeding in the fall--have certainly made my life more painful this spring. Makes me want to look and see if I've been omitting anything important in the rest of my life.

Okay, one more analogy and I'm done.

I've also been spreading weed preventer in all the beds. Hopefully when all those spring seeds from dandelions and maple trees start floating through the air they won't sprout when they land in my flower beds. Scripture reading and prayer seem like a good weed preventer for life.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Papua New Guinea

The following is a sample story from my newsletter, JOURNEYS.

“Shout our name from the mountains to seas, Papua New Guinea.” The strains of their national anthem still play in my mind. I expected a great dive adventure. I didn’t expect to fall in love.

Perhaps it was waking anchored in calm inlets to hazy purplish sunrises with the distant call of exotic birds, or looking out at the lush green islands of Milne Bay that contrasted sharply against the clear skies and deep blue waters that drew me in. Without a doubt it was meeting the wonderful people of the villages that dot the islands so far away from the usual conveniences we take for granted.

Silently the dugout canoes sliced through the water from each village as we neared. Men, women, and children in canoes congregated at the sides and back of the live-aboard with fresh fruits and vegetables to trade for staples like rice and sugar. Some displayed crafts of wood and shells to sell or trade for T-shirts. Some fished. But all watched as we came and went in our dive gear. We were the entertainment for the day.

The paradise above was magnified in the treasures below. Abundant colorful marine life in all shapes and sizes played over a patchwork quilt of brilliant corals. An abundance of lionfish, countless varieties of nudibranchs, endless fields of anemones with their guardian clownfish, and the unusual--the hairy ghost pipefish, kept us diving back in for more. On this 10 day trip, we were limited only by our ability, stamina, and common sense. (Read the rest of the story.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Okay, so it seems lately I'm doing a lot of complaining but I need to get this out. When I listen to the news on TV, I want to hear the news. Instead I hear "Coming up is..." and then there are four or five teasers which may or may not be coming up any time soon. This wastes at least a minute and a half--long enough to give me another news story.

Then there's the one that really drives me nuts. Waiting for the weather. There are two teasers in the half hour news program and at least three in the hour version and two of those promise the full report after the next commercial. After the third commercial the report is finally given.

I liken this to writing a story and rambling on and on. Good writing is tight writing especially when writing non-fiction (that's what the news is supposed to be). Readers lose interest if you promise them something and make them wait. TV viewers do too. We turn the nightly news off way before the weather finally arrives no matter how many times they promise it's coming. After all, when we get up in the morning, it will still be weather and we'll know whether the sun is shining or not.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gas Prices--Shorter Drive Thru Lines?

This noon I stopped at Wendy's to get my son some lunch. I was going to use the drive thru. When I saw that it was wrapped around the building, I decided to go inside instead. We were through the line and back in our car before the last car made it up to the ordering box.

Now, I'm no expert on how much gas is wasted on an idling car but as the pennies, dimes, and quarters keep getting added to the price, doesn't it seem ridiculous that people would be waiting 15 minutes in a drive thru line?

As we passed McDonald's on the way home, I glanced at their drive thru line--around the building just like Wendy's.

What's it like in your neighborhood? Maybe we should do a study on drive thrus and the waste of energy sources. I'm sure the government would have some kind of grant available for that--probably even at a drive thru window.

Monday, April 17, 2006

...And Babies Were Three

Scratching and chirping continued over our heads in the dining room long after our intruder was carted off by the animal warden. With the help of our son, Bob removed the speaker in the ceiling of the room and began to pull down the insulation. It wasn't long before he pulled the first baby from the warmth and comfort of its nest. Two more followed.

Instead of the usual chicks and ducks, we were graced with three baby raccoons for Easter.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Intruder

The animal warden arrived that afternoon to see if she could determine what was in the attic. The minute we mention chirping sounds, her face clouded. The consensus was that we had a raccoon in the attic and she probably had babies. Apparently baby raccoons sound a lot like baby birds.

We set the box trap in the attic and baited it with some cat food. The warden assured us that we would know when we had caught our intruder. Well, we didn't hear much that evening and when Bob checked in the morning, the trap was empty--the food was gone!

Clearly we were dealing with a clever raccoon.

Undaunted, Bob bought some more cat food--two varieties--and reset the trap adding a bowl of water and wiring the bait to the cage.

His efforts were rewarded. The next morning two beady eyes blinked at him when he inspected the trap. He left his trophy catch on the porch for the animal warden and went off to work. Her report came back that indeed the raccoon was a female and she was obviously nursing babies.

The trap sits in the attic awaiting some hungry babies. If they don't show up, they will be routed from their nest this weekend. Usually kids get chicks and ducklings for Easter. Looks like we get raccoons. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Noises

The scratching was incessant in the evening. During the day there was only an occassional shuffle. Whatever was between the floors was nocturnal. That began to narrow things down. Mice? A raccoon? A skunk?

A skunk was frightening to think about. That could mean de-stinking the whole house if it let loose when cornered. A raccoon is destructive as are mice.

Bob opted for mice and set a couple of traps with his favorite bait--peanut butter. In the middle of watching our favorite shows we had TiVoed while gone, we heard a horrible clunking sound that seemed to run the length of the dining room. Something was in a trap and it was desparately trying to get out. And that something was BIG and angry. Rule out mice.

"Call someone," I began to chant. We have an animal warden and there are other pest control people. "Call someone."

Bob just kept shaking his head. "What could it be? What could it be?"

"Whatever it is, it's big and mad. Call someone."

He went to work the next day and, sure enough, the consensus at work was that he should call someone. He contacted the animal warden for our city and set up an appointment. At four, we would get an expert's opinion on what was in attic.
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