Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let the Holidays Begin!

     For the first time EVER, the presents are bought and wrapped, the house is decorated, and the cards are sent… and there's still a week until Christmas. Maybe this monumental accomplishment is what prompted me to clean out my purse yesterday. Either that, or I was suddenly possessed by demonic forces beyond my control.

     I once read an article claiming that a woman's purse is one of the germiest items you can touch. When you think about the surfaces it has encountered, like shopping carts, public restrooms, restaurants, store counters, chairs that have been sat on, and floors that have been walked on, it's amazing that we women haven't all perished from the Great Purse Plague of the Twenty-first Century.

     A friend gave me my beautiful, leather designer bag a few years ago for my birthday. I'm not one to change purses with seasons or outfits or occasions. No. I intend to use this lovely bag every day for the remainder of my life and bequeath it to my daughter. So, wouldn't you think I would have set up a regular cleaning schedule for said bag?

     Yesterday's second mistake was to pour the contents of my purse onto the bed. Honestly, I didn't know I even owned 24 pens. Could my pen-hoarding habit be the reason my husband has stuck tiny name labels to all his writing utensils?

     In addition to more pens and pencils than one could use in a lifetime, out poured a trove of other treasures. I made a list in case I should decide to hold a yard sale:
  • Coupons that expired as far back as 2010;
  • Punch-cards from coffee shops and ice cream parlors that are no longer in business; 
  • $6.23 in loose change; 
  • 3 furry cough drops and a few unidentifiable pills;
  • Receipts from places like St. Augustine where we vacationed in 2014; 
  • The sunglasses that have been missing since we vacationed in St. Augustine; 
  • A wallet stuffed with more of those worthless punch-cards, plus a dollar bill and myriad credit cards in rainbow colors;
  • A set of car keys;
  • A spare set of car keys, in case I should misplace my purse. Oops;
  • A filthy cosmetic bag filled with filthy makeup brushes and containers;
  • An earring whose mate I threw out months earlier, positive I'd never see this one again.
  • A pile of sand that could keep a small child entertained for hours.    
     Now it was time to wash my purse inside-and-out with disinfecting soap and warm water. This led to my third mistake. I retrieved a clean, white washrag from the linen closet and wiped every nasty surface of my handbag and every article I intended to return to its bottomless abyss. With the deed accomplished... let's just say, that washrag went in the trash can, not the hamper.

My purse and I are ready. Let the holidays begin!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Holiday Perfection

Are you suffering from the contagious disease known as holiday perfection? Yes, I thought so. Much like the flu, this dreaded infection returns every year to ruin our celebrations. Also, like the flu, there are so many strains that it can't be completely eradicated even with an innoculation of "Come on. Really? Christmas was just yesterday!"

Holiday perfection is pervasive and starts with general malaise. We feel it coming as soon as the retail stores display their Christmas decorations in October. Suddenly, our mystique-radar springs into action, telling us--especially us women--that it is up to us to create the perfect holiday for our loved ones.

We must choose the perfect gift for each person in our life and wrap it with glittery paper and a perfectly formed bow. Then, we must place it under the perfectly decorated, perfectly shaped tree in our perfectly adorned (and scented) home that rivals any house in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas edition. Oh, and don't forget to select the perfect Pandora station to pipe beautiful Christmas music throughout your perfectly decorated rooms.

Of course, our children must each have a new, festive outfit in which to visit Santa, so we can take that perfect holiday photograph. We must plan and execute a perfect dinner, using the good china that must be washed by hand because of the platinum trim we thought was "just perfect" when we registered for our wedding pattern. Fortunately, the table and the mantle are still decorated from that perfect Christmas party we hosted for our work colleagues two days after Thanksgiving.

We must not forget to bake perfect Christmas cookies to give to our friends and neighbors, who, of course, are accomplishing all of these tasks more perfectly than we are, while working full-time, raising children, taking care of pets, keeping a spotless house, volunteering, and taking extra Yoga and Pilates classes to keep up with the extra calories from their perfect holiday celebrations.

Is it any wonder we wear out our imperfect-selves before December 25th and collapse into a coma on December 26th? I blaim the retail industry for fueling this vial contagion that strikes us every winter, starting the day after Halloween.
So, what can we do to fight against holiday perfection? I have three words of advice for all of us, myself included, who fall victim to this insidious ailment year after year: get. over. it! The mystique is not real. All those magazine celebrities that promise to help you create a perfect holiday meal/aura/outfit/mantle/hairdo/wreath? They have a staff! They are not one person trying to be all things to all people. Furthermore, they don't care about you and your exhaustion. They care about selling you a magical image and a lot of stuff.

When did we forget that Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in a plain old stable (a cave, actually), surrounded by smelly animals? There were no decorations, no sparkling trees, or cookies baking in the oven. And the gifts were for Him, not for each other. It is His birthday we celebrate, not ours. As royalty, Jesus could have chosen a life of ease and comfort, instead He chose to live in poverty and simplicity.

Only Christ's incarnation can fill the emptiness of our imperfect hearts, and heal the disease of holiday perfection. We need not over-achieve to receive His love. It is a free gift to all who accept it. Merry Christmas!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Beauty for Ashes

Yesterday was emotionally charged, not because of who lost the national election, but because of who won. My first reaction was to shed tears of grief and disbelief that so many of my fellow Americans would even consider electing such a person to lead our country and represent us to the world. Based on what I had seen and heard in the media, there could not have been a more despicable choice. But now that it's over and I've been forced to accept what I cannot change, I turn to God and ask not, "How could you let this happen," but "where do we go from here?"

The answer is clear.  "Go to your knees. Trust Me to indwell and inspire what seems like a hopeless situation."  I've heard this same mandate many times throughout life. Undoubtedly, I will hear it again and again before resting in my eternal home. Countless times in the past, God has created "beauty for ashes" in my life, and I trust God to bring beauty out of the ashes of my beloved country.

The entire, tedious political campaign was built upon lies, dramatics, ugliness, and greed from both sides. It wore us down as a nation, but it got us talking and thinking and becoming involved.  It also reminded us to express our hard-won freedom by voting, to question the establishment, and most importantly, to pray. This election has made Americans care again, and that can't be a bad thing.

Today, I realize my tears were not only tears of sadness, but of judgment. Judgment based on outward behavior. But I'm reminded it is not up to me or any other human to judge a person's heart, despite the gross inappropriateness of that person's actions. I am reminded that hearts--even those we perceive as evil--can grow and be transformed. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." That "all" includes: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Christians, Jews, Muslims, blacks, whites, me, you . . . ALL. But all of us sinners are loved by the God who created us.

As I move through the next four years, I will pray without ceasing. I will stay as informed and vigilant as possible, despite the media's manipulation of truth. Most importantly, I will place my hope in the ultimate authority of my true King and Ruler, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

From My Window

From My Window

Pink-tinged clouds dance among the tree tops,

Fading to white as daylight dawns.

Beyond the transparent wall 

 A feathered warbler chirps its cheerful greeting.

Orange leaves tumble silently to the ground,

Swirling like so many helicopter blades.

Soon the trees will bare their weathered arms

In preparation for winter sleep.

God speaks, but only to those who stop and listen,

“Peace be with you, my child.  Go forth into this new day." 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Feel, Deal, Heal

I used to be the Queen of Denial--get it? Queen of the Nile/Queen of Denial? Just a little play on words. Okay, if I have to explain it, it's not so funny. Seriously, though, I used to be really good at not-feeling. Sadly, I thought not-feeling was a sign of strength. 

"Don't cry. People will think you're weak."

"I'm not angry. After all, I'm a Christian. Christians forgive and forget."

"I'm not discouraged or depressed. I'm happy. If I keep affirming that I'm happy, it will be true. Right?"
Affirmations are important, for sure, but shutting down or burying our emotions is not healthy. I would go so far as to say denial of our feelings can make us not only emotionally unhealthy, but physically ill, as well. Shaming others about their emotions can make them physically ill. By expressing the truth of how we feel and dealing with the reason we feel as we do, we can finally arrive at a healthy emotional place where we no longer fault or resent others for their limitations and choices.

Just as God created the physical parts of us, He created the emotional parts. If we deny our negative feelings, they don't go away. Rather, they fester and grow until they have eaten away at our very souls. An important part of healing damaged emotions is to acknowledge them (feel) and sit with them (deal). Only then can we begin to let go of them (heal) and move on with our lives.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The older I get, the less I care about stuff. In fact, I revel in getting rid of the possessions that have
accumulated in my home for the last thirty years. It gives me great pleasure to purge closets, drawers, and attics. Someone once said, "Whenever you bring something new into your home, be sure to get rid of something." While that seems like good advice, I would take it a step further and get rid of two "somethings." Let's face it. We really need less than half of what we own. So, why do we surround ourselves with so much stuff?

My parents' generation lived through the Great Depression. They knew what it meant to be lacking. As a result, many of them became hoarders. Whether consciously or subconsciously, they vowed to never "go without" again. I understand that mentality, especially when I throw away something, and-- a day or two later--find myself needing that very item. However, there are only so many surfaces on which to display knick-knacks and so many walls for exhibiting art and photographs.

I'm not, by nature, a collector, but the people in my life seem to enjoy collecting for me. Okay, so I have a special Teddy bear in each room of my house. That doesn't mean I want you to start buying Teddy bears for me. I love books and I love reading, but I already struggle to pare down my personal library. I don't need more books to clutter my shelves. I appreciate fine jewelry, but every time my sweet, generous husband buys me a new ring or necklace, I think of how much good that money could have done for people in need of life's basic necessities.

We--especially we Americans--are products of a capitalist society that emphasizes consummerism. We have been brainwashed to always want more. . . more money, bigger houses, expensive cars, high fashion, more stuff.

I have been poor, and, frankly, I didn't like it. But, I'm convinced wealth can be just as limiting as poverty until we recognize that material accumulation doesn't do anything to develop our spirits or contribute to the universe. It only creates more stuff for our children to dispose of after we're gone.    

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nothing Can Separate Us . . .

Yesterday I attended the memorial service of a young man who passed away at the tender age of twenty-nine. Twenty-nine-year-olds aren't supposed to die. They're certainly not supposed to predecease their parents. I hadn't seen Drew in a while. For many years, he and one of his sisters sang in the youth choirs that I directed. Drew was lively, friendly, funny, adventurous, respectful of his elders, and a bit of a dare-devil. The friends and relatives who spoke at his service reaffirmed everything I remembered about him, and added "happy" and "contented" to the descriptors.

I don't think anyone was surprised when Drew enlisted in the Army after college. He actually survived a tour in Afghanistan--as an explosive disposal specialist--where he received a bronze star. When he returned to the States, his mom breathed a huge sigh of relief.

As she and I hugged and cried together at the visitation, we talked about how she was in the throes of every parent's worst nightmare. Let's face it, we parents spend a lot of time figuratively and literally holding our breath until we can finally feel confident we have successfully raised our children to adulthood. At last, that overwhelming sense of responsibility lifts from our shoulders. They are safe; they are happy; and they are decent people. Our job is done.

At the end of our conversation, Drew's mom said, "If anyone dares to tell me it was God's will for my son to die . . ." I could tell she needed to feel and express intense anger. So, when she hesitated, I finished her sentence, "You'll punch 'em where it hurts." She nodded her head adamantly as we both recalled instances when we had heard those very words spoken by well-meaning Christians. The implication was that we should be grateful for losing our loved-one; we should be grateful for the worst pain we have ever experienced because God, in His infinite wisdom, willed it.

No! It is not God's will for us to suffer such unimaginable loss and pain. It is not God's will for us to have our children ripped from our lives and our hearts. When faced with the horrors that can befall us in this earthly life, we are allowed to be angry, despondent, grief-striken, lonely, and afraid. We are even allowed to rail against God.

The promise is, "Nothing [including death] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39)." Accordingly, God honors each stage of our grief and stands ready to walk through it with us, every excruciating step of the way until we are whole again.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bitter or Better

We all know people who have been beaten down by life. Maybe they have suffered a great loss or are struggling with a serious illness or both. Perhaps their loss is of a financial nature. Maybe they have lost an important relationship or job. No one in this earthly life is exempt from loss or pain. We cannot control what life hands us. We can only control how we respond to life's inevitable changes and challenges.

We live in an imperfect world, and we deal with imperfect people. We, ourselves, are flawed. All of us. At some point, we must choose. We can either allow the pain and hardship of imperfection to make us bitter or we can choose to use our human existence to make us better.

Shortly after my second child was born, I developed endometriosis, a painful, unrelenting condition. Gradually, it worsened throughout the next fifteen years. If I had the power to change that period of my life, I would. If I could erase those terrible memories, I would. I saw doctor after doctor and tried first one medication and then another. I was referred to gynaecologists, edocrinologists, psychotherapists, nutritionists and more. Nothing helped. I became depressed, angry, and desperate. My life, my family, and my dreams were slipping away. I wanted to be a good wife and mother, but I was failing in both roles. I pushed my husband away with negativity and criticism borne of constant pain. I was missing out on the joy of raising the children I so desperately wanted. My passionate career aspirations required energy. But every day was colored by incessant, insidious misery. Life had become a burden too heavy for me to carry.

Finally, at the age of forty-two, in a last-ditch effort to restore my health, I underwent a hysterectomy. But, instead of the cure I had joyfully anticipated, I faced the beginning of a long journey. Now, my body was plunged into the living-hell of surgical menopause. I couldn't start hormone replacement therapy until a year after the surgery because hormones would cause the remaining endometrial tissue to regrow.

At this point, my marriage was strained, my depression worsened, and suddenly my children were teenagers. Where was this God who supposedly loved me and cared about me? Where was the God who promised to never leave me or forsake me? I had accepted Jesus at a young age. I had prayed daily, read the Bible regularly, and attended church faithfully. Why was God allowing me to suffer? I had begged and pleaded. I had bargained and questioned. I had railed against God for deserting me. I had chosen bitterness.

The only action I had not taken was surrender. The verb, surrender, has the hallmarks of being passive, but the act of surrender is a tall order. Surrender is an attitude that requires courage. It is a behavior demanding great, heaving effort. Surrender involves the intentional struggle of letting go. Letting go of pride, ego, and stubborn self-sufficiency. Surrendering our egocentric schemes to God's perfect plan requires a conscious decision that no one can make for us, even when it seems we are too weak to decide anything.

I would love to proclaim that surrender resulted in instant, miraculous healing. Indeed, some miracles do manifest instantly. No, I wasn't the recipient of an instant miracle, but I did experience immediate, pervasive assurance that my miracle was promised in God's time. It came in the form of peace. Yet, God still had a lot of work to do in me and required a lot of work from me, but now I was indwelt with peace.

The moment I released every aspect of my being into God's omnipotent, omniscient hands, trusting the resurrected, living Christ to be Lord of my life, was the moment my life began to change for the better. The journey began nearly 30 years ago, and today I am living, learning, and loving every day.

Today, I recognize and experience God's miracles wherever I am, in whatever state I find myself. I cherish every moment in this earthly body, aware that it is but a temporary vessel. As it gradually deteriorates, turning back to dust, it will fail me again, but my spirit soars now and into eternity because I have chosen to live, learn, and love, reminded that I can be better instead of bitter.  


Friday, September 30, 2016

Williamsburg Book Festival

I hope to see many of my readers tomorrow, October 7, at the annual Williamsburg Book Festival. This year the event is being held in the Stryker Center, 412 North Boundary Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Along with many other local authors, I'll be selling my novels, UNREVEALED and THE DARK ROOM. I'd love to sign one for you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Thank You, Litterbug

Dear Litterbug,

I'm that crazed woman who walks along Neck-O-Land Road with a trash bag in hand, flashing my derriere at passersby to pick up the litter you so kindly throw from your vehicle. I want to thank you for your thoughtful, repeated gestures that provide me the extra exercise of squatting, bending, and reaching. You add interest to my daily constitutional which would, otherwise, be mundane. If you didn't so selflessly share your bounty, my walks would be reduced to merely enjoying birdsongs, breathing fresh air, and observing the beauty of God's creation.  

Often, you take special care to slam that beer bottle into the concrete ditch beside the road. I thank you for the added amusement of picking up multiple pieces of glass. Of course, your cigarette butts can't be considered litter. They are so tiny and insignificant, as their lethal chemicals leach into the earth and pollute the water supply. Why not empty your entire ashtray onto the shoulder of the road? Since you've decided to kill yourself, you might as well share those deadly chemicals with the rest of us who inhabit this planet?

Of course, paper and cardboard are made from trees. Therefore, when you throw your paper-waste into the woods you are returning it to its source. Right?

Plastic bags are my favorite debris because they come in assorted colors to decorate the surrounding landscape. For me, the bonus is that when my trash bags are full, you provide additional bags for me to fill on my return trip.

Oh, and I especially enjoy those styrofoam packing "peanuts" because they are eternal. If I happen to miss one, I can rest assured it'll be there the next time I pass. Dryer sheets are fun, too. I thank you for not securing them when throwing them in the trash. That way they can fly from the garbage truck and adorn the surrounding landscape like so many wispy spider webs.

I mustn't give you all the credit, however.  I feel compelled to thank your parents for instilling in you such admirable qualities. They taught you that you are number-one, and no one else matters. Congratulations on being such a good student! You learned that selfishness and laziness are virtues. You learned that someone else will pick up after you, so you needn't take responsibility for the environment that you share with billions of other people and animals.

There is a saying, "Children learn what they live." You can feel confident that your children will perpetuate your carefully-practiced habit of disposal. Let's just hope that future chumps like me will feel obligated to clean up their messes.


Fellow Citizen of Earth      


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Finding Joy

I am convinced the greatest joy in life is to know and be known by the living Christ. This joy transcends all earthly experiences and relationships. How do I know this to be true? I have sought and I have found. I have rested in the center of Christ’s amazing love. I have sinned and been forgiven. I have prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus” and been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Does Christ's indwelling joy guarantee an easy life? No. Does it mean I never experience sorrow or failure or frustration? No. But Christ's presence in me and with me promises that whatever this earthly life deals, I have the assurance of supernatural strength and courage to face it and walk through it. I can expect some days to be ordinary and others to be extraordinary. That is the way of human existence. But whether tomorrow brings happiness, achievement, and romance or humiliation, loss, and even physical death, I need not face it in fear. 
Whether consciously or unconsciously, every human heart longs for God’s amazing grace. We may spend an entire life trying to fill that empty space with human relationships or career aspirations. We may seek joy through recreation, pleasure or social status. We may strive for financial reward and earthly possessions. Perhaps it is power or recognition we seek. God wants all of that abundance for us. But when temporal desires, alone, fail to produce transcendental fulfillment--and they will--we may turn to addictive substances and dysfunctional behaviors. 

We need not spend our whole lives wishing, wanting, seeking, and striving. There is nothing we can humanly do to earn Christ’s love.  It is a free gift. The living Christ is but an acceptance-speech away. “I accept you, Jesus, as Lord of my life. I surrender my will to yours.” Therein lies the joy we humans so earnestly seek.      

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It Can't be August

It can't be August. How do I know it can't be August?  I'm not submitting press releases or advertisements or setting up demonstration classes. I'm not frantically assigning children to classes and juggling waiting lists and changing class assignments because parents just received their children's sports/dance schedules. I'm not assembling and mailing some 400 enrollment packets. I'm not creating staff working agreements and job descriptions and planning the first staff meeting and in-service training. I'm not organizing two Parent Orientation days, revising Power Point presentations and studying notes and lesson plans. I'm not spending hours and hours making and receiving phone calls and answering e-mail messages. I'm not performing inventory, organizing storage closets or ordering home materials for more than 400 students. I'm not preparing for board meetings or fund raisers or scholarship meetings. I'm not setting up classrooms, scheduling carpet cleanings or washing instruments. I'm not organizing volunteers or training new staff members or requesting background checks or arranging for CPR/First Aid training. I'm not attending workshops and seminars to keep my certification current, and I'm not arranging for six other teachers to attend workshops and seminars. I'm not writing a monthly newsletter or revising six levels of weekly handouts. I'm not updating the web site or the school calendar. I'm not working twelve hour days. So, you see, it can't be August. Oh, that's right!  It is August and I'm retired.      

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Zoos Can Be Fun?

Visiting the zoo has never been one of my favorite past times. You see, I grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals, all of which left me with fits of itching, sneezing and wheezing.  Therefore--even as an adult who has outgrown most of those childhood allergies--I tend to associate furry critters with unpleasant reactions.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were able to spend a rare day with three of our grandsons who live some five hundred miles away. Where did they want to take us? To the zoo, of course. While this Nana was thrilled to hang out with her grandsons, she had to take a deep breath and put on her best I-can-do-this face before proceeding through the gate of New York's Seneca Zoo.

While we enjoyed a picnic lunch, I tried to ignore the orangatan cage located next to our table. I found myself wondering why anyone would want to eat near a smelly primate habitat?  Soon there were two giant orangatans foraging for lettuce leaves and swinging from vine to vine. Of course, the boys found this scene most entertaining and had to be encouraged to return to their sandwiches multiple times throughout the meal. Then, I heard one of them exclaim, "Look! A baby!" I turned to see that a most adorable baby orangatan had entered the wire enclosure.  It was climbing, swinging, rolling in the bedding and playing with total abandon, all while dragging a security blanket. Yup, it had a blue, satin trimmed "blanky," not unlike the one that had accompanied each of my grandsons (and their dad) throughout toddlerhood. Like them, he would place it over his head and peek through a tiny opening. He would hug it to his chest and suck his thumb. If he needed his arms for climbing and swinging, he would carry it with his feet. It went with him everywhere. Now, that was a sight I couldn't resist. To tell the truth, I could have remained in that one spot all day watching the antics of this precious little guy.

As we continued our tour, we observed elephants flinging mud on their backs to stay cool and a female lion spraying a very fragrant "perfume" to mark her territory. Then, there was the hilarious family of baboons who argued and hugged and chattered much like human families interact.

Because it was a particularly warm, sunny day, many of the animals chose to remain indoors, trying to stay cool, but we did glimpse a fluffy white snow owl and a regal bald eagle. While the polar bears failed to greet us, the sea lions seemed happy to demonstrate their amazing water aerobics.  Posted at each section of this wonderful zoo, were friendly, well-informed young people who gladly regaled us with interesting facts and answered any questions we could pose. I found myself having fun at the zoo. Imagine that! It seems even this old dog (pun intended) can learn a new trick.          

Monday, August 8, 2016


There was a time when I thought vacations were a waste of time and money. My practical, stick-in-the-mud side would argue that the expense of vacation trips could be put to better use in home improvements or saving for the future. Yes, it's important to maintain one's home and it's important to save for the future, but I've finally realized it's also important to bask in the joy of present moments and create precious memories with friends and family members. It has taken many years and many memorable trips to rid me of the guilt associated with vacations. 

Today, as I recline on the balcony of a condominium atop Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, I find inspiration in the spectacular scenery. With its gray clouds concealing the highest peaks, one might describe the overcast sky as gloomy, but I see before me another of the Creator's many exquisite masterpieces. The same air that sways the treetops feels cool and fresh as it brushes against my skin and fills my hungry lungs. Earlier this morning, gentle raindrops began to play their tinkling music against the roof and windows, forcing the birds to seek shelter.

Now the rain is falling forcefully, turning the panoramic landscape from light green to bluish-black. Thunder roars in the distance, reminding me to retreat behind the expanse of windows that graces this condo, aptly named "The Catbird Seat." From our corner unit, we can observe both the sunrise and the sunset, each boasting its own particular array of pinks and oranges. Low-hanging wisps of clouds float past, kissing the foothills and resting over the shimmery lake in the valley below.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to explore our new surroundings. For this day--the first day of our mountain vacation--we are quite content to rest from the packing, driving and unpacking to simply savor the beauty of an ever-evolving display provided by the Master Painter.    

Please visit my author website at https://www.cindylfreeman.com/      

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Before it's Too Late

With so many disturbing accounts of mass shootings in the news, I've been thinking about the little boy who lived next door to us when our children were young. I'll call him Wayne. Wayne would be nearly forty now, the same age as my son. I would not be surprised to see Wayne's name in the news attached to a mass shooting. This child was seriously disturbed. Even at an early age, the signs were there.

Wayne routinely set fires in the empty lot beside his house; he placed live frogs in buckets of bleach and watched them disintegrate; he threw his own parakeet against the wall and killed it; he would suddenly, without warning, explode with rage and lash out violently at anyone who happened to be in his path. One day, he emerged from his house, ran to our yard where my son was playing, and punched him in the mouth, dislodging a permanent tooth.  Another day, I watched in horror from my kitchen window as Wayne climbed to the top of our backyard play structure and, before I could stop him, hurled himself over the railing to the ground, breaking his own arm.

What factors turn an innocent child into a monster with no regard for human life? I learned that Wayne's father made him watch porn with him and that his mother (whose own behavior was erratic) was bipolar. She once confided in me that her husband abused her sexually. More than once, Wayne's school counselor arranged for him to receive intensive therapy at a residential facility, but each time, his mother pulled him out early because, selfishly, she "wanted him at home."

What is the profile of a mass murderer with seemingly no conscience or remorse?  Was Wayne destined to become one? How can we identify and help such children before it is too late?  Can they be helped or are they simply wired differently?

Peter Langman, a psychologist in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has studied the profiles of mass shooters. Following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, he was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, "Our culture and media (violent movies and video games) reinforce that manhood is about attaining power. Violence is glorified as a way to get that power."

According to my research, there is a fairly standard profile when it comes to mass murderers. They feel rejected and isolated by their families or by society, in general. They are almost always white, male loners who lack both self-esteem and empathy for others. In most cases, they have been either abused by a parent, bullied by their peers or both. Interestingly, while mental illness may be a factor, most people who are mentally ill are not violent.

I sincerely hope Wayne received the necessary help to grow into a responsible citizen rather than the mass murderer he seemed destined to become. I hope he found healing from his demons of self-hatred and intense anger. Most of all, I hope he finally received the acceptance and friendship that we, his neighbors, couldn't risk because of concern for our own children's safety.        

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Next Project

I love blogging, but some days I have to make the choice to write a blog or write a chapter of my current novel. Lately I've been choosing the novel. The working title is I JUST WANT TO GO HOME. It's the story of Abigail Jordan, a typical middle class teenager growing up in James City County, Virginia who finds her family in the unexpected position of being homeless. Here's a sneak preview from Chapter 2:

        A few weeks later, Mom called another of her dreaded family meetings. If I thought the conference of three years earlier was life changing, well, this one topped even the news that Dad was dying. Mom announced she would have to get a job. But that wasn't the worst part. I'll never forget her next words. She looked at me with sad eyes and said, "Honey, I'm afraid you're going to have to put off going to college. We just don't have the money, and besides, I'll need you here to help with your brothers when I go to work." In stunned silence, I had stopped listening at the word "college." Not go to college? I had been planning this important milestone of my life for four years or more. What was she saying? That I couldn't pursue my dream of becoming a documentary film-maker? There was so much to learn! I had eagerly anticipated studying how to produce, stage, shoot and edit film. I needed to learn about interviewing, writing a script, funding, copyright issues and so much more. Finally I had narrowed down my choices to either New York Film Academy or Los Angeles Film School, and both schools had offered me early acceptance.

        "What about my college fund?" I asked through hot tears stinging my cheeks. I didn't want to cry, but I couldn't help myself. "Dad has been saving for years."

        "I know, Sweetheart, but I've had to use that money to pay the mortgage. We haven't had any income for three years, and our health insurance paid less than half of your father's medical expenses. I've already dipped into his retirement fund. I just don't see any way. Maybe after I work for a while and get caught up on the bills we can think about it again." I was stunned. I absolutely didn't see that bombshell coming. How could I not go to college? It was inconceivable. I had known what I wanted to do since the seventh grade and had meticulously planned my whole career. I had to get out of that room before I said something I would regret. Anger, disappointment and confusion swirled together in my brain, threatening to explode before I could stop myself. I stood, turned, and ran up the stairs to my room, leaving Mom to deal with my brothers who always cried when they saw me crying. "Please, Honey! Try to understand!" I heard her call after me, but I had not one ounce of understanding left in me. I thought when Dad finally died, life would get back to normal. Mom would be the parent again, instead of me. I would go off to college and come home for holidays. It was the natural order of things. Wasn't it?

Does this plot sound intriguing?  Does I JUST WANT TO GO HOME sound like a book you would be interested in reading? Please be honest in your assessment. Your comments will help me decide whether to move forward or to let this one go.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Be Careful What You Say

As a recent retiree, I already miss many aspects of my job: my wonderful colleagues, teaching my favorite subject (music), and attending Musikgarten workshops to learn more effective ways to teach my favorite subject. Most of all, I miss working with children. Yes, children can be disruptive, self-centered, impulsive, and just plain challenging (especially in a group setting), but they are also refreshingly honest and unspoiled by the cynicism that inevitably creeps into our adult perspectives.

When my own children and grandchildren were young, I remember being awed by their sense of wonder at everything they encountered, from a line of ants marching along the sidewalk to their own belly buttons. Observing the world through the eyes of a toddler--who has just mastered the skill of walking and is still struggling with the art of verbal communication--is like watching a weightless balloon as it is released from it's tether. It begins to soar through the sky unfettered, not caring where it goes, simply reveling in the journey.

I adore conversing with young children because they are concrete thinkers who express themselves in absolute terms. It is so interesting to hear their literal, yet often unique, translations of English words with multiple meanings. For example, when my daughter, at two years old, was playing in her sandbox one day, I reminded her to wipe off the sand before coming in the house. She reached down and started brushing her hands back and forth on the surface of the sand in the box. She was doing exactly what I had asked her to do, but still had sand all over her clothes.

Often when teaching five- and six-year-old children to read music, I found that if I weren't specific with my words, the students could become confused. When asking them to place a note on a line of the staff, I needed to specify that the line must intersect the note head. Otherwise the note appeared to be in a space. Musicians quickly discover that a slight misplacement makes a huge difference in how the note is interpreted.

One time I asked a young student to place a cardboard circle (note-head) in the space above line-three of the rope staff I had constructed on the floor. Obediently, he suspended the circle in the air about a foot above the floor. Literally, he followed the directions I had given.                

Young children, unless their needs are not being met, possess no malice. Their motives are pure and their speech patterns are delightful. Here are just a few memorable examples from my thirty years of teaching early childhood music:

Jimmy (age 8): "Mrs. Freeman, why is the top of your head black?"
Me: "Because I'm not a natural blonde."
Jimmy: "Oh."

Avery (age seven): "Wednesdays are my best days."
Me: "Why?"
Avery: "Because on Wednesdays I get to have music twice. . . once at my regular school and again at music school."
Me (smiling and thinking): "I love this kid!"

Alyssa (age 3): "When I was a little kid, I sucked my thumb."

Me: "Who can tell me why it's important to sit or stand tall when we sing?"
Ben (age 4): "'Cause if you scrunch like this (gives a dramatic demonstration) you might get a cramp, and when your mom comes to pick you up, she'll think you're a pretzel, and she'll take some other kid home."
Me: "Um."
Me (singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in solfege): "do, do, sol, sol, la, la, sol, etc. What song am I singing?"
Four-year-old students: No response
Me (same tune but switching to a neutral syllable): "Baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, etc." Now what song am I singing?"
Jack: "Well, at first I thought it was the star song, but now I think it's a song about sheep."

Me (reviewing the previous week's lesson): "When there are two voice parts, it's called a duet; when there are three, its a trio. What do we call it when there are four parts?"
Madison (age six): "A crowd."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Children in a World of Peace

A very special person, Rev. Marvin Willard, once gave me a framed picture inscribed with these words: "If everyone prayed the same prayer . . . God would grant it."  This text is surrounded by colorful drawings depicting loving, joyful families from all corners of the earth. The picture entitled, "Children in a World of Peace," has hung in my office for about twenty-five years. I've passed by it hundreds--maybe thousands--of times. Occasionally, I would stop and read the inscription, but I never really studied the drawings until today. Two weeks ago, on the day of my retirement, I placed it in a box--along with all the other office supplies I'll likely never use again--brought it home, and put it in a closet, out-of-sight, out-of-mind . . . or so I thought. But since reading last week's headlines, the picture has called to me again and again until finally, I had to dig through that box, pull it out and study it.

Just imagine what would happen if every person on earth stopped at the very same moment and prayed for peace. Do you think God would even consider not granting it? What if the entire human race decided to set aside prejudice that says, in essence, "I'm more worthwhile than you" or "I'm right; you're wrong?" What if we joined hands across the world--black hands, white hands, brown hands, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindi, Buddhists, regardless of age, gender or sexual preference? What if, instead of defending our stance as the only way, we simply respected each other's differences and decided to replace hate (or misunderstanding) with simple love and acceptance?

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the "way, the truth and the life." But even when Jesus walked the earth, He took people as He found them and loved them as they were. He taught His followers that God, the Father, is a God of love. He gave them a new commission: "You shall love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself."

What if we humans stopped playing judge and jury of our fellow humans and, instead, accepted our own fallibility. What if, instead of questioning the wisdom and condemning the practices of others, we humbled ourselves and looked deeply and honestly into our own hearts and minds, seeking to change only ourselves? I'm convinced God would answer our collective prayer. I think God (Allah, Jahweh, Abba, Jehovah, or whatever you call the Divine) would grant it. Perhaps then our children (and grandchildren) could finally live in a world of peace.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Conjurer

My husband, Carl, is convinced he is a conjurer.  If something comes to pass, he insists he was just thinking about it. He has conjured a tick crawling on his leg, a sudden thunderstorm, an unsuspected perpetrator in a movie mystery, and many an unexpected visitor or phone call . . . according to his after-the-fact revelations.

Let me give you an example of Carl's inflated sense of power. He has been a die-hard New York Yankee fan since his little league coach took his whole team to Baltimore to see the likes of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris play against the Orioles. Ever since that game more than fifty years ago, he has worn his Yankee hat all day after a win, but if they lose, he takes it very personally, leaving his hat in the closet. You see, because they lost a game once while he was watching, his conjuring ability holds the power to jinx all subsequent games. Therefore, he only views the games later on the Internet. If he watched the game in real time, of course, they would lose. Coincidence? Hum! Conjuring? Not even!

Now, lest you think I'm totally unconvinced of my husband's supernatural ability, I should mention that his self imposed label as a conjurer started a few months after his mother died. It was nearly Christmas, and he was thinking about her as he left his office for the day. He turned to shut the door and there on the floor lay a Christmas card. He picked it up and, sure enough, it was from his mom. Okay, maybe it fell from atop the bookshelf where it had been saved from a previous Christmas or maybe it was pushed out the back of his desk drawer as he closed it. Of course, I have only his word (and his "Boy Scout honor") that he was thinking about her at that precise moment, but I confess I had never seen this particular card before, and it was addressed to him, alone. While my mother-in-law was alive, her cards always included our children and me. Did he conjure it?  I'll let you draw your own conclusion.  As for me, I believe there was, indeed, a supernatural force at work, but I'm convinced it was the Holy Spirit sending my husband the clear message that his mother is at peace.      

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Equal Access

These days, I do most of my reading on Kindle. As soon as I finish a novel, I quickly download another from Amazon. My virtual library contains hundreds of volumes and has space for hundreds more. But I still relish holding a real paper book in my hands, one that has pages to turn and return to again and again, one that has margins in which to scribble notes and stick Post-its, one that I can place on my real book shelf like a trophy.

Some books are just too precious to let go even if I never turn their pages again--like anything written by Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison. Then, there is SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach and JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young, also THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO by Melody Beattie. These are among the missives that have changed who I am at the core.

I didn't set out to cherish only books written by female authors. In fact, I do read and appreciate a great variety of authors, many of whom are male. But female writers speak to my soul. Perhaps it is because "Women are intrinsically mystical. That is, we tend to experience direct connection with the Divine." These words are not mine.  I wish I had written them, but they are quoted from Joan Borysenko's book, A WOMAN'S JOURNEY TO GOD.  Several years ago I received this book as a gift. I placed it on my book shelf and there it stayed until this morning when something (or Someone) prodded me to open it.

Borysenko points out that women long for spiritual expression in a religious world historically dominated by men. We seek a God that is not exclusively male for males, a God who includes us, respects us, finds use for our particular gifts, and loves us both equally and uniquely. "God as jealous, punitive, white Anglo-Saxon male with a long beard and a longer arm lacks appeal for contemporary women," says Borysenko. She goes on to express, eloquently, what woman have longed to say for centuries, "Many women are tired of repenting for Eve's imagined sins and are ready to reclaim the energy that has been lost to religious traditions in which the framers were singularly unconcerned either with women's spirituality or with their basic rights and gifts as human beings."

Are Borysenko's words anti-Bible? Are they blasphemous? Are they male-bashing? The answer is "yes," if you are a white Anglo-Saxon male who is convinced that only his faith-journey counts and that the Bible was written only for him and his kind. But Jesus was neither white nor Anglo-Saxon, and Jesus did not exclude women (or ethnics or Gentiles or Lepers or prostitutes or homosexuals or pillars of the organized church) from His teachings or His love. "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." In other words, we are ALL equally in need of God's mercy and forgiveness.

Granted, women have come pretty far since Borysenko's book was published in 1999. Many have even succeeded in becoming ordained clergy. Clearly they understand that Jesus's promise, "Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you (John 15:9)" does not exclude them. I'm convinced that the Divine with whom I commune every day intends for ALL to have equal access to our father/mother God.              

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Let it Be

Each day that we wake up is a day filled with new possibilities. No matter how difficult, challenging or non-productive yesterday was, today is a clean slate--an opportunity to start fresh. That's the beauty of life. But not everyone can look forward to tomorrow as we middle class Americans can. Oh, sure! We have plenty about which to complain, especially in this election year. But we also have choices, freedoms, more-than-basic comforts, health care, and even vacations. We live amid so much abundance that we abuse our bodies and become easily bored with our daily existence. We seek constant stimulation, entertainment, screen time . . . input, input, input.  

What if we made a conscious effort to slow the pace,"smell the roses," and just be for a few minutes each day?  What if we took those moments to reflect on our blessings and say, "thank you" to the Creator?  What if we decided to do one kind deed each day without expecting anything in return? What if we used our freedom not as a privilege but as an opportunity to make someone else's life better?  What if we stopped trying to control everyone and everything and, instead, allowed God to be the judge of ourselves and others?

Achieving a peaceful existence sounds easy, but finding peace requires letting go, which is always harder than holding on--holding on to prejudices, perceived insults, insecurities, assumptions, anxieties, possessions, and people. I think the Beatles hit, "Let it Be" perfectly expresses the idea of letting-go and letting-God.  Paul McCartney might have been a genius when he wrote the lyrics or maybe, like the Paul of Ephesians, he simply allowed himself to be a conduit:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Yeah, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

When the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Yeah, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Yeah, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
You know there's gonna be an answer, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, oh no, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be, let it be
You know there's gonna be an answer, let it be
Oh, let it be

Friday, July 1, 2016

Retirement: Day One

Today I am officially retired.  After forty-five years working in the field of music education/ministry, it feels strange to know that I needn't hurry through my blog to get dressed and go to work.  In fact, I can stay in my P.J.s all day if I so choose . . . and I might do just that.

Walking out the door yesterday was bittersweet. I won't miss the administrative duties or the church politics or the twelve-hour days or sacrificing important family events.  I won't miss the evening classes and rehearsals, rescheduling snow days, working during dinner time or hauling instruments and other heavy equipment from place to place. I won't miss meetings that last until 9:00 PM (after teaching all day).

What I will miss are the faces of hundreds of precious children that flashed before my eyes as I left the building yesterday.  Many of them are grown now with children of their own. Some have chosen careers in music.  I feel genuinely rewarded and truly grateful to have played a small part in each child's life.  If they remember me, I hope their memories are of someone who cared about each one, not only as a potential musician but as a valued child of God.  I hope and pray that I was able to have a positive impact on their lives.

I will miss the amazing staff of professionals and dedicated volunteers with whom I surrounded myself. Where I once called them valued, gifted employees, now I get to count them as lifelong friends.

I will miss the remarkable Musikgarten philosophy and curriculum. What a privilege it has been to teach such a comprehensive, holistic program since its inception!  I will be eternally grateful to Dr. Lorna Heyge for her vision, her sacrifice and her life's work to bring the very best educational method to fruition.      

There have been so many magical moments in my career!  I couldn't begin to describe just one that stands out.  But, administrative duties and church politics aside, I thank God for the privilege of witnessing and celebrating the intrinsic beauty of each child's soul.        

Saturday, June 25, 2016


A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling sorry for myself because I had hurt my knee.  You see, I had been doing well with my exercise program and had even lost a few pounds. Then I injured my knee, forcing me to stop walking.  Bummer!  One reason I've been looking forward to retirement is because it would give me time to get into shape. Now I'd have time to increase my exercise, and because of reduced stress, I'd be eating less. I should be able to drop ten pounds before our vacation in August. So you can imagine my disappointment when my knee started screaming at me. "Rest, ice and Aleve twice a day," my doctor ordered.

Poor me!  My plans have been interrupted.  I'm hobbling around like a peg leg.  My summer wardrobe doesn't fit, I gained back the three pounds I worked so hard to lose, and now I can't exercise?  Poor, pitiful me!

God: "Get over yourself."

Me: "What did you say?"

God: "I said, get over yourself.  Let's put this minor setback in perspective.  Didn't one of your colleagues just suffer a broken neck in a car accident?"

Me: "Oh, yes. Thanks for the reminder."

God: "Another of your colleagues has spent the last two weeks in the hospital with her husband who just received an artificial heart, right?"

Me:"Yes, that's right. He'll be hooked up to a machine until a real heart becomes available for transplant. That means someone has to die. Actually, twenty-five someones have to die before it's his turn.

God: "Then there's your ninety-two-year-old mother. Didn't she fall last night and break her arm?"

Me: "Yes, she had just recovered from a fractured vertebrae, and now this."

God: "Weren't you just complaining about your knee to your associate pastor?"

Me: "Yes, but in fairness, she saw me limping and asked what was wrong.  I couldn't say, 'It's nothing, just a little problem with my knee,' could I?"

God: "Is that the same pastor whose husband has been hospitalized for three weeks with complications from diabetes and whose son just fell and broke his ankle?  Is that the same pastor who, herself, suffers from a rare disease that causes bouts of intense pain . . . pain severe enough to land her in the E.R.?"

Why do I need to spend time alone with God every single day? Perspective. Maybe a bum knee isn't quite the tragedy it seemed at first.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Nobody likes rejection. Being rejected hurts, but writers had better get used to rejection or they won't ever become published authors. Still, it's hard to hear that the work you slaved over for months isn't good enough. We writers put heart-and-soul into our work, so when a publisher rejects it or an editor changes it, we feel offended. What if, instead of getting our panties in a bunch, we accepted professional criticism as an opportunity to improve our craft?

Two years ago I sent a query letter and synopsis of my novel, UNREVEALED, to a publisher.  I received a very polite letter of rejection, stating that the beginning of my book contained too much back-story which slowed the plot's progression. I could have been devastated--okay, I was a little devastated--but I decided to use the experience as a learning opportunity. I knew I had a good story and interesting characters, so I went back to the drawing board. I removed most of the back-story and submitted my manuscript to another publisher who accepted it.  I was assigned an editor . . . a very good editor.  The first thing she suggested was that I change the tense throughout from present to past tense. After I had spent the better part of a year writing a novel, the last thing I wanted--or had time--to do was rewrite it. I could have given up on the whole project, but I remembered a workshop from which I learned that almost every author can expect a plethora of re-writes before seeing his or her work in print.

Next, my editor indicated places where there were issues with point-of-view.  Sure enough, I hadn't caught the discrepancies. Here we go again--another "read" through the entire manuscript. After the third or fourth revision, I felt like I had experienced a fourteen-hour labor. Now, I was beginning to hate my own book and the characters I had so lovingly created.  However, the end result was a novel about which I felt satisfied . . . until I opened the finished product and immediately found a typo!  Aargh!        

Saturday, June 18, 2016

That's Not Fair!

More than once during their childhoods, my children proclaimed vehemently, "That's not fair!" Translation: "I didn't get my way!" By now, they--like all adults--have discovered life isn't fair. If life were fair (according to our human egos) good people would always land on their feet. If life were fair, children wouldn't die. If life were fair, decent, hard-working people wouldn't live in poverty or go hungry, and only bad people would get cancer. Right? If life were fair, I would win the lottery and live happily ever after.

We look at other people's seemingly perfect lives and ask, "Why does she get to live in luxury while I struggle to make ends meet? Why does everyone else believe him when I know he's a liar? Why can she eat anything she wants and stay slim while I gain a pound by just looking at food. That's not fair!" Not fair according to whom?

Jesus said, "[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45)." Now that's fair! I don't hear any playing-favorites in those words, do you?  A few years ago I wrote a poem, "Matthew Wonders."  At the time, I had just come through one of life's inevitable challenges during which I questioned God's fairness.   

Matthew Wonders
Matthew wonders why bad things happen.

Matthew asks Mommy, “Why do bad things happen?”

“Darling boy, I don’t know why bad things happen.”

Matthew asks Daddy, “Why do bad things happen?”

“My son, I don’t know why bad things happen.”

Matthew asks Pastor, “Why do bad things happen?”

“Child of God, I don’t know why bad things happen, but God knows.”

Matthew asks God, “Why do bad things happen?”

“My precious child, if bad things never happened, would you recognize the good?

If you never walked in darkness, could you appreciate the light?

In the absence of sadness, could you fully experience joy?

Without moments of deprivation, would you recognize abundance?

Without famine, could you appreciate the feast?

Without war, would peace-time seem hallowed?

My beloved, I do not create the bad things.

You inhabit an imperfect world with other fallible humans.

I do not create the bad things, but if life were perfect, would you have need of Me?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Don't Surprise Me!

I don't like change.  I've never conducted an official survey, but I suspect most people are uncomfortable with change . . . otherwise, I'm just a control freak . . . and we all know that cannot possibly be true.  I prefer my world and my life to be predictable.  I guess that's why I don't like surprises, either.  Surprises can lead to embarrassing public displays of crying or tantrums or both.

For people who don't like surprises, going off-list can be as dangerous as going off-road.  When our son was a toddler, he once told us, "that makes my liver nervous."  I don't remember what the catalyst was for a three-year-old's nervous liver, but I can tell you in all honesty, surprises "make my liver nervous."

One day in April, when our children were small and I was juggling two jobs, raising two children and a dog, volunteering, taking voice lessons, and basically trying to be all things to all people, I casually mentioned to my husband that my mom and I had never been separated whenever my birthday fell on Mother's Day (which was every seven years).  Well, my husband happens to be a thoughtful, romantic guy and his mental wheels immediately began to spin. Unknown to me, he hatched a plan with my mom to fly her from Syracuse to Virginia for Mother's Day weekend.  It just happened that I was scheduled to present a voice recital that weekend which, of course, Mom was thrilled to be able to attend.

Did I mention that, since Easter, we had been raising baby ducks that were no longer babies, that swam in the bathtub, spread corn throughout the house and pooped a lot?  Did I mention that, because I was preparing a recital, I hadn't quite kept up with the cleaning or laundry?  Did I mention that, although there was no food in the refrigerator, there was a humongous cardboard spaceship in the dining room (don't ask) and the ducks were living in a playpen in the family room?  Oh, and did I mention that I was PMS-ing?  One last question: Can you imagine how I reacted to the news that we were headed to the airport to pick up my mother?  I'm too embarrassed to describe my response to this dear man's thoughtful gesture.  Suffice it to say, thinking back on that moment "makes my liver nervous."        

Monday, June 6, 2016

Worrier or Warrior?

I've always been an anxious person.  As a child, I suffered from severe eczema which--I've since learned--is a condition brought on by stress.  I've always had a compromised immune system--meaning I catch a cold approximately every two weeks.  For many years, when faced with a stressful situation, I.e. life, anxiety was my go-to emotion and worry was my go-to response.  I can hear Dr. Phil asking me, ". . . and how has that been working for you?"  Well, okay, it hasn't!

When one's DNA is ninety-five percent anxiety, it's challenging to find an alternative to worry.  Since childhood, I've been a prayer warrior with a clear sense of God's presence surrounding me.  But well into adulthood, my prayers typically started with worry.  They went something like this:

Me: "Lord, I'm worried about my children.  Lord, I'm worried about my friend.  Lord, I'm worried about my        job."

God: "I am your refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1)."

Me: "Lord, I'm worried about the future."

God: "Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself . . . (Matt. 6:34)."

Me: "Lord, I'm worried about global warming, wars, and children in poverty."

God: "Cast all your anxiety on [Christ], because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). "

Me: "Lord, I'm worried about my anxiety."

God:  "LOL.  Are you kidding me?"

Me:  "That wasn't very supportive."

God: "Sorry.  I really thought you were kidding me."

Wake-up call!  Worry accomplishes nothing except to make me feel more anxious. It's really a huge waste of time and effort.  So, I've changed my prayers.  Now I'm a prayer warrior instead of a prayer worrier.  As I surrender my concerns to God, trust in God's wisdom and direction, and invite the living Christ to walk with me every day, through every trial and every circumstance, my anxiety is miraculously transformed into peace.    

Monday, May 30, 2016

Cleaning the Refrigerator

I don't know what came over me Saturday, but for some reason, I felt compelled to clean out the refrigerator. Usually when such a ridiculous compulsion seizes me, I either take a nap or eat ice cream until the urge passes. But with the long holiday weekend and the rain keeping me indoors, I was running out of distractions.

Since I keep an open box of baking soda on each shelf to absorb odors, the chore could have waited another month or two, but procrastination is such an unattractive quality. Don't you agree?  Also, I absolutely love cleaning the refrigerator. It's one of my favorite household chores because of the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. I get to remove soggy lettuce and limp celery from the vegetable drawer and a couple slices of something from the meat drawer that smell like dead rat . . . or dead turkey, to be precise. If I wait long enough between cleanings, I might even find a fuzzy, green science project in the back corner that defies identification.

I grew up on a farm in central New York. At an early age, I learned that, when you lived in the country, you went to the grocery store no more often than once a month with a list as long as an elephant's trunk. It didn't matter that half of the items would expire long before the next shopping trip. One had to "stock up." Absolutely nothing was allowed to "go to waste."  If the cheese grew moldy, you cut off the mold and made Welsh rarebit. If the bread went stale, you had French toast for breakfast. If the milk passed its expiration date, you made Italian sour cream cake. Rotting fruit was baked into pies or cobblers. Everything else went into the deep freezer in preparation for the inevitable long winter storm.

So, you see, it's hard for me to break with the traditions of childhood. Sometimes I forget the market is only two miles away in any given direction. I can buy fresh produce every day if I choose to. In that case, perhaps I don't need the refrigerator. If I don't use it, it won't get dirty. If it's not dirty, I won't need to clean it. Right? And think of all the money I'll save on baking soda.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Writer's Bum

For an author, only one condition is worse than writer's block. Writer's bum! Writer's bum is the condition which results from our habit of sitting for six-hour stretches at a time. It is far more serious than the "freshman fifteen" or the "pregnancy twenty-five (fifty, in my case)."  Typically, such plights are temporary, and affect the young who still have elastic skin and a metabolism. When one already suffers from middle-age spread, a case of writer's bum can be lethal.

Whether an author spends hour-after-hour seated at a desk or in a big, upholstered chair with an ottoman (like I do) or sprawled on the sofa with a laptop, she risks being afflicted with writer's bum. The condition manifests in a sore tailbone, achy legs that stiffen upon standing, tight hamstrings, jiggly thighs, and a gluteus maximus the size of a barn . . . probably a red barn, but I've never actually checked. If she also spends time sitting on a piano bench (like I do), the condition can render one, well . . . fat. There's just no polite way to describe it.

So, is there a cure for writer's bum? I suppose one could write less and play the piano less, but I refuse to follow such an extreme course of action. One could also eat less, but that doesn't sound like any fun at all. Liposuction might be a viable option if it weren't so painful and expensive.

A writer's only recourse, it seems, is to exercise more. No problem! I'm sure I can walk four miles a day instead of two. Maybe I could add a spinning class a couple times a week, and dig out those free weights I haven't seen since January . . . of 2002. Yes, it should be easy to increase my exercise. I'll just park as far away from any destination as possible, and always opt for the stairs instead of the elevator. Whenever I'm talking on the phone, watching TV, cooking or performing my morning ablution, I'll march in place. There! I have a plan. I'll get started on it as soon as I finish this blog . . . and one or two more chapters of my latest novel . . . and that Chopin prelude I've always wanted to learn. Oh, look at the time! Off to bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fear Versus Peace

The world is a frightening place. I wonder how anyone can face waking to a new dawn on this planet without acknowledging God's presence and trusting God's promises. God is the only constant in an ever-changing world. He is the same "yesterday, today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8)," and He is as near as our own breath.   

God created a perfect world for His children to enjoy, and God created each human uniquely, but perfectly in His image. Often our ego (the great deceiver) convinces us we are too sophisticated, logical, scientific or intelligent to believe such seemingly simple concepts.  

I'm convinced that in each of us God placed a hunger that can be satisfied only through companionship with Him. But there are other forces at work making us fearful and trying to steal our joy and our awareness of God's loving presence. Sin and evil have wounded our hearts and our world. All of creation is now flawed, uncertain and in disarray.  It would be easy to throw up our collective hands and say, "It's no use! I give up!"  
Why do we insist upon struggling through life on our own? Why do we see dependence upon our loving Creator as weakness?  Why do we feel helpless and hopeless in the face of life's challenges? When living presents us with its inevitable change and loss, why do we blame God?  

Even in a frightening, uncertain world there is good news. The good news is that we don't need to be bound by the constraints of earthly life or threatened by the evil that surrounds us. Jesus told His disciples, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:13)." 

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Frog, Perhaps?

Since the first grade, I've known I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew I wanted to be a wife and mother, a singer, a conductor, a writer, and of course, a princess. I have been all those people--well, all except a princess, that is. The beauty of writing is that I can still be a princess . . . on paper.  I can fashion characters who are realistic or fanciful according to my whim. Writers like Tolkein or Rowling create entire worlds, kingdoms, and creatures, bringing them to life through mere words on paper. Shakespeare and Steinbeck hold the power to reduce even the most stoic reader to tears simply by manipulating language. The creative process has no bounds.

Most writers, it seems, are introverts. We are most comfortable inside our own heads. Even we who do not begin to measure up to the great masters can spend hour after hour alone with our thoughts and stories. If you dare interrupt a writer of fiction, you had better have a very good reason or expect to encounter a glassy stare or a full-blown fit of temper. Fiction transports the writer to an alternate plane of awareness. Thus, when the creative juices are flowing, an interruption can feel like being struck on the head with a heavy object.

My husband has learned that, unless the house is on fire or he has discovered a nest of rats in our kitchen, he had best leave me alone while I'm writing. Not only could an interruption incur my immediate wrath, but it could cause him to show up on the pages of my next novel . . . portrayed in a most unattractive light.