Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Carol Snob

Loving members of my own family have called me a Christmas carol snob, and I must confess the accusation is accurate. I can’t help myself. When I walk into a store, expecting to be filled with the Christmas spirit and am, instead, greeted with, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” piping loudly throughout the store, I start to feel nauseous.

Last week I finally got around to doing some Christmas shopping. Okay, maybe I’ve been called a procrastinator on occasion, too. As I entered store number one, my ears were accosted by strains of the ever-reverent “Santa Baby” followed by another sacred classic, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” I could scarcely keep the bile from rising in my throat. Let me be clear. I’m not above a sentimental rendition of “White Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but when you interrupt my holy Advent season with tripe like, “Run Rudolph Run” and “Gee Whiz it’s Christmas” I get offended.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas music. I anticipate it eagerly all year long. Handel’s Messiah, while overdone, still gives me chills. Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity are a few of the exquisite musical settings that capture the true spirit of Christmas for me.

There are arrangements of traditional carols that, when performed by groups like The King’s Singers, Chanticleer, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, leave me wanting more. “Mary Did You Know?” is a more modern carol that makes me weep when I hear it sung well.

Since retiring, I’ve participated in a program through my church that ministers to shut-ins. Weekly, I visit two elderly women at a local senior living facility. Being with them is a blessing beyond words, and I look forward to our precious times together.

One woman is ninety-six and confined to her bed day and night. Although her mind is sharp, macular degeneration causes blindness, and her hearing is greatly impaired. She spends most of her time sleeping or listening to audio books. She tells me she feels “useless” and wishes the Lord would take her home.

At my last visit, my elderly friend asked if I’d help her sing Christmas carols. I pulled out my phone to Google the words in case some of them had slipped my mind. She requested song after song: “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and my favorite, “What Child is This?” among others. Despite the oxygen tube in her nose and a thin, croaky voice, she joined in with gusto, loud, strong and in no way pleasant to the ear. I half expected the staff to come running, thinking she was crying out in pain. If she forgot a strain, she asked me to repeat it again and again, helping her commit it to memory. “Let’s do this again next week,” she said. “I just love those carols, and I want to remember every word.”

We prayed together, and I left her room with tears flooding my cheeks. Hoarse and exhausted from the effort, my heart and eyes overflowed with Christmas joy. This self-professed Christmas carol snob had been blessed by the rawest, ugliest, most atonal rendition of carols ever--singing that came from the heart and reached God’s waiting ears. Surely the Lord Jesus Christ was in that room! 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Greatest Gift

Yesterday I was sitting on the floor in our great room wrapping Christmas presents and listening to the King’s College Choir singing classic Christmas music. I had spent the morning shopping, then rushed home to change clothes and attend our neighborhood’s annual Christmas tea at the clubhouse which had been meticulously decked out in festive trimmings. Beside me, the tiny lights of our apartment-sized Christmas tree glowed, joining forces with multiple twinkling candles on the mantle above. Focused on how much shopping I still had to accomplish, suddenly I was struck with how far our Christmas traditions and celebrations have departed from that first Christmas in Bethlehem.

Not that there’s anything wrong with decorating, gift-giving, or gathering friends and family to enjoy food and fellowship. But when those aspects dominate our holiday celebrations, it’s not really about Christmas, is it?

Now that I’m retired from my demanding job as a church musician, I don’t feel quite as frantic about being ready in time for December twenty-fifth. But there’s still a sense of urgency surrounding the preparations: mail the cards, clean and decorate the house, shop for gifts and wrap them, attend concerts, plan special meals and gatherings, shop for groceries ... the list goes on and on until we want to shout “stop, slow down, there’s only so much one person can do!” I would add, “Take time to reflect on God’s gift to humanity, Jesus Christ.” 

God, the Father, is not the one pushing us to rush about, checking things off our to-do lists. Rather, we humans have turned Christmas into a competition to outdo each other. Maybe that’s why we’re called the human race. We even stretch our budgets to the breaking point, making retail merchants happy but causing ourselves more unnecessary stress.

What happened exactly that first Christmas in Bethlehem? “The Word became flesh.” God in the form of a baby, fully human, fully divine, came and dwelt among us, fulfilling the prophecy foretold hundreds of years before by Isaiah, Micah and others. More than our annual reenactment of Mary and Joseph gazing peacefully into a manger, surrounded by shepherds and animals, it was the greatest gift humanity has ever known. God’s desire to reveal His plan of love and harmony to the universe was so significant that He came and dwelt among us in the form of a humble peasant boy. Knowing His plan would include suffering and humiliating death, Jesus came to offer the ultimate gift of salvation, a gift that is free to all who accept it. Now, that’s a reason to celebrate!  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Friday, December 7, 2018

What Aspect of Writing Do I Enjoy the Most?

Recently someone asked me what I enjoy most about writing. Since I like everything about writing, I had to think carefully to pinpoint one aspect. Finally, I recognized that, both in writing and in real-life relationships, I enjoy studying the psychology behind people's words and behavior.  

Why do people speak and behave as they do? For example, why are some people uncomfortable in social settings while other seem to fit in immediately? What factors contribute to personality traits like narcissism, hypersensitivity, or extreme shyness? Why are some people timid while others are assertive?

Most adults, at one time or another, have taken a personality test, whether Jung’s Typology, Myers Briggs Type Indicator or some other assessment. I found an online test that divides humans into sixteen types within four main categories: analysts, diplomats, sentinels, and explorers. To me, it seems to use different terminology to arrive at the same conclusions as Myers Briggs.

As an educator, I know that labeling children according to their behavior is potentially harmful. I see behavior as different from personality. Children are a work in progress. Young children’s personalities may be set by the time they are six, but their behaviors are fluid, and their influences are many. Take, for example, a child who bullies others. Unless there is a preexisting brain abnormality, s/he was not born with an intimidating personality. Most likely it was his/her negative experiences in early childhood that contributed to the need to torment others. Unless this behavior is explored and interventive measures are employed, the child will continue to get a pay-off for bullying. Chances are, s/he will become an adult who seeks to control others through intimidation.

When I created Hank, the abusive character in my novel, The Dark Room, I needed to give him a backstory explaining his behavior. Most batterers have, themselves, experienced abuse. Unless this cycle is broken early, chances are an abused child will grow up to repeat the behavior. For this reason, I gave Hank an abusive father.

Often abusers can “hold themselves together” until some traumatic incident triggers their need to oppress and control others. Hank’s behavior is triggered when he loses his precious, five-year-old son. Unequipped to handle the intense grief, he turns to alcohol and drugs. Now, less able to control his anger and aggression, he begins beating his wife, daughter and granddaughter. Seemingly, his behavior changes overnight.

While domestic violence is not a subject about which we like to think or read, it is an unfortunate fact that millions of women and children, and some men, suffer abuse at the hands of someone who claims to love them. How confusing for a victim! How intriguing for an author!  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Friday, November 23, 2018

Riding the Rails

As I write this blog, I’m sitting in Amtrak’s Business Class car on the way to Alexandria, Virginia. At Thanksgiving, my husband and I voluntarily forfeit spending time with our children and grandchildren in favor of seeing them for Christmas. It’s one of those compromises that couples can expect upon tying the marriage knot.

While we’re in the D.C. area, we’ll take in a show at the Kennedy Center, enjoy many fine restaurants, get together with a couple friends, and frequent our favorite Smithsonian museums.

We prefer taking the train to driving, fighting traffic on I-95, and trying to find places to park. Riding the train is not the most efficient means of travel with its numerous stops along the way and slow crawls through congested areas, but it’s a pleasant, relaxing experience during which I can write, Carl can snooze, and we have access to a café car for snacks and drinks. We arrive at our destination rested instead of frazzled.

As we waited at the station this morning, I ran into people I knew and engaged in friendly conversations. The station master was most entertaining as she greeted us with her bright smile and regaled us with her comedic style. “She’s not from around these parts,” I quipped when I heard her characteristic Brooklyn accent, pronouncing Washington “Warshington” and car “caw.” I was reminded of the various dialects I’ve portrayed in my novels and the research necessary for presenting them as authentically as possible.

In Unrevealed, one of my characters, Zavie, is Jamaican. Through research, I learned as much as I could about the island and, in the process, discovered the native language is Patois. I found some colloquial phrases and peppered them among his words. Since another of my characters in this book is from Bedford, Virginia, I wanted her to speak with a southern accent. I accomplished this by writing some of her speech phonetically and using figures of speech that are characteristic of Virginians from the Piedmont area. My book, The Dark Room takes place in Hickory, North Carolina. Since my husband was raised in Lexington, North Carolina, I simply borrowed the dialect from his dear, departed mother.

Maria, a character in my third novel, I Want to Go Home, travels from Mexico to Washington, D.C. seeking shelter for herself and her two young children. I remembered enough Spanish from high school to give her broken English a Spanish element.

During every trip, whether short or long, whether flying, driving or riding the rails, I make it a practice to study people, including their patterns of speech. I never know when I might need a character for a new book. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Women Falling Down

My husband, Carl, and I enjoy watching old movies, even as far back as the silent film era. It’s interesting to observe the correlation between films and the culture that existed in America when the films were produced. 

Last week I returned from an errand to find Carl watching the 1929 version of The Mysterious Island, a mostly silent sci-fi movie based on Jules Verne’s novel. It featured Lionel Barrymore and the female actor, Jacqueline Gadsden. “Watch this,” Carl said. “It’s a chase scene, so, of course the woman will fall down.” I’m not much of a sci-fi buff, but he and I have often shared a laugh about this predictable phenomenon: women falling down in movies. Sure enough, Jacqueline Gadsden’s character took a tumble and had to be helped to her feet by the strong, capable men in her company. By the way, she was not wearing high-heeled shoes. Rather she was dressed in the same diver's suit the men wore in the underwater scene.

So, what’s really going on here? Since its inception, the film industry has been dominated by men and has reflected a male-dominated society. The woman-falling-down syndrome is but one subtle example of female oppression in a society that considered wives to be the property of their husbands and women, in general, too weak to take care of themselves, too unintelligent to succeed in business or vote in elections, and constantly in need of rescuing. Men fall down in movies, too, but it never seems to be about demeaning them.
I’m not talking about the hilarious slapstick of comedic geniuses like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and more recently, Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Rather than feeding into gender inequality, these brave women have broken through it with their athletic pratfalls. I’m referring to sci-fi, Western, horror, mystery, romance or any other dramatic genre in film and TV. It happens again and again. Women swoon and fall, often twisting an ankle, requiring them to be carried to safety by their strong, macho leading men. I grew up watching movies like this, and so did millions of women from my generation.

When I started writing at the age of sixty, I had experienced my fill of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying by men who assumed they were entitled to control women because of their supposed innate superiority. I decided to write about strong women.

In my novel, Unrevealed, Allison is a twenty-seven-year-old president of an international conglomerate. My novel, The Dark Room, features Edith, a widow who owns a café and seeks to empower her employee, Stella, a victim of domestic violence. Abigail, the protagonist of my novel, I Want to Go Home, is only seventeen when she runs away with her younger brothers to protect them.

My female protagonists are strong, independent, and resilient. Does that make them masculine? No. Does it make them man-bashers? No. Each one ends up in a relationship with a good man who respects her as an equal. Each one exhibits a healthy dose of vulnerability and tenderness. But just as those qualities in men don’t make them weak or effeminate, the same qualities in women don’t require them to swoon, fall down, and wait to be rescued by a man. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Why Fall Back?

Given a choice, I’d vote to abolish the time change. It’s not just the bother of re-setting all the clocks that annoys me. It disturbs my equilibrium and imposes a couple weeks of feeling blah before my body and brain adjust.

Now that I’m retired, the adjustment is slightly less upsetting, but when I taught children all day, every day, I observed how intensely “falling back” affected them. Every fall they became out-of-sorts, had trouble sleeping at night, according to their parents, and concentrating during the day. They complained of hunger an hour before mealtimes or weren’t interested in eating when mealtimes rolled around. It always amazed me how much an hour’s difference one way or the other unsettled them until I recognized the same symptoms in myself.

I daresay Englishman William Willett wasn’t thinking about human circadian rhythms when he recommended Daylight Saving Time. Good ol’ Will certainly failed to consider its effects on children. His purpose was to move the clocks forward so more people could enjoy summer’s sunshine. Because of him, we change our clocks in the summer months to move an hour of sunlight from morning to evening. Okay, that sounds like a good idea, but if it’s such a good idea why do we change back to standard time in the fall?

Last evening, my husband and I had finished dinner and were watching TV when we both started yawning. “I’m so sleepy,” he remarked. “It must be time to go to bed.”

“I can hardly keep my eyes open,” I complained. I checked my phone and it was 7:45 pm. What good is a bonus hour if you can’t stay awake to enjoy it?

I discovered numerous online articles offering useless suggestions about how to adjust to the time change. One expert recommended not using the extra hour to sleep in. Really? Like that’s even an option for parents. Children who normally wake up at 6:00 am will now wake up at 5:00 am. Parents, teachers, and school-aged children will be ready for a nap before lunchtime. The same expert warned against giving in to the urge to nap. Another recommended taking a ninety-minute afternoon siesta. Ha! Yet another writer suggested refreshing your bedroom with a new mattress, pillows, and sheets to encourage rest and relaxation. Right! Every October we’re all going to storm Bed, Bath and Beyond with our twenty-percent-off-one-item coupon and spend hundreds of dollars to spruce up our bedrooms.

The worst suggestion was to avoid caffeine. What? My body is already in a state of circadian pandemonium and you want me to avoid caffeine? Be serious.

Despite public outcry in 1966, Congress officially made the time change a law. According to Remy Melina who writes for the online magazine Live Science, “Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Reservation), still choose not to partake in the convention, as do some U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” In my opinion, that’s one of the best arguments I've heard for moving to Hawaii. Don’t they also grow coffee beans there?

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I Almost Died

Imagine receiving an email message from your thirteen-year-old grandson entitled, “I Almost Died.” That’s not a subject line any nana wants to read. As you can imagine, it initiates immediate heart flutters and sweaty palms.

Our son, Brian, and his family live on some property with a babbling creek running behind it. Normally, this creek, which isn’t visible from the house, is no more than a foot deep at the deepest point. My three grandsons, Luke, 13, Ethan, 10, and Jacob, 8, enjoy wading there and discovering all manner of water creatures to entertain them for hours.

A few weeks ago, the boys came home from school, changed clothes, donned their rubber boots, and headed for the creek as they often do. With the threat of Hurricane Michael past, they were anxious to play outside again. Immediately, they spotted a large, shallow pool of water in the field behind the creek and began wading and stomping. Luke decided to venture into the creek, noticing it was deeper than usual, but unaware of the powerful current created by a flash flood. Immediately, he lost his footing and found he couldn’t fight against the current to return to solid ground.

Panicked, he called to his brothers, “Go get Mom!” Clawing at hanging tree limbs, he finally held fast to one as the rushing water threatened to pull him under. When our daughter-in-law, Alisha, arrived at the scene, she jumped into the water to rescue her son, confident because she is a strong swimmer who once worked as a lifeguard, and she even completed a triathlon. Now she, too, was pulled under, unable to swim or grasp the overhanging branches.

Jacob stood on the bank crying and screaming, “Mommy’s dying! Do something!”

“Ethan, call 911!” Luke yelled from the opposite side where he had managed to pull himself up enough to grab a sapling. Ethan ran to the house, found his mother’s cell phone, and with amazing presence of mind for a ten-year-old, unlocked it, dialed 911, and engaged a dispatcher.

“What’s your emergency?” the dispatcher asked.

“My mommy and brother are drowning in the creek! Hurry!”

“Where do you live?” 
“Appomattox,” he answered.

“Okay, but what’s your address?”

He gave his address, and with phone-in-hand, ran back to the creek to find a wide-eyed and white-knuckled Luke hugging a tree while Alisha tried desperately to hold on to a small branch. “They’re coming!” Ethan yelled to be heard above the rushing water and hysterical cries of his younger brother.

“Run to the road, Ethan, and direct them here!” Alisha cried.

As Ethan ran to meet the emergency responders, his mom’s phone rang. It was Brian, who happened to be calling Alisha on his way home from work. He had been delayed by a fallen tree that was being cleared from the road. With sirens blaring in the background, Ethan said, “Mommy and Luke are drowning,” before he hung up. You can imagine the mental picture that flashed through Brian’s mind. I’m pretty sure it was like the panic that seized me when I received Luke’s email message.

I wouldn’t be able to write about this event if it had turned out differently. By the grace of God, a clear-headed ten-year-old, and a whole fleet of well-trained emergency responders, everyone ended up safe and dry, and the Freemans are one tremendously grateful family.

Life can take sudden, unexpected turns. Without trust in a loving God, we can easily sink under the weight of our circumstances, mistakes, and challenges. In my novel, I Want to Go Home, Abby finally learns how to place her trust in God who, she recognizes, has been trying to get her attention throughout the challenges of homelessness. She simply needed to grab that branch and hold on.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Monday, October 22, 2018

My Favorite Book

I have many favorite books, but the first book to touch my core and influence my life was The Helen Keller Story. I was ten years old when I checked it out of my school’s library, and I couldn’t put it down until I had devoured every page. I was a good reader, but not an avid reader. I became mesmerized by Helen’s courage and determination to express herself, despite her afflictions. The experience was so significant that I began to look for other inspiring books.
At the age of two, Helen Keller was stricken by an illness that left her blind and deaf. Her family had no idea how to help her learn to communicate. As I read her story, I could imagine the darkness and loneliness of a little girl who could get her needs met only through explosive temper tantrums. Helen had no way of relating to others around her. Because she couldn’t hear, she hadn’t learned to speak. She became a wild animal with no purpose, no future, and no hope.
Along came Anne Sullivan who recognized Helen’s intelligence and potential. Despite initial challenges with the wild, unsocialized child, Sullivan became determined to reach her. She discovered that locked inside Helen was a bright, capable girl, frustrated by her inability to connect with others.
Sullivan was a gifted teacher who had studied at the Perkins School for the Blind. She, herself, was nearly blind in one eye. She was only twenty when she became Helen’s governess. Helen’s family had given up hope of ever communicating with the uncontrollable girl. Convinced that language was the key to helping the six-year-old child, Sullivan first had to undo the damage Helen’s parents had inflicted by spoiling her instead of teaching and disciplining her.  
Through fingerspelling, Sullivan finally succeeded in unlocking the prison of Helen’s affliction. She committed to being Helen’s teacher for life and even helped her become the first deaf-blind college graduate. Anne Sullivan was indeed a “miracle worker.”
I related to The Helen Keller Story because I, too experienced darkness in my childhood. I was a sickly child who suffered from allergic eczema and asthma. I felt different, like I didn’t belong in my family or in my school. I needed to vent my frustration and anger. I needed assurance that my future would be better. But the adults in my life, who had lived through The Great Depression and a world war, had little empathy for a child who should be grateful for her decent life. I learned to keep my feelings to myself.
For many years, my practice of bottling negative emotions caused me to be depressed. I’ve heard it said that depression is anger turned inward. As a child, my anger, frustration and anxiety were not accepted emotions by adults. Sometimes I was even ridiculed and told I was too sensitive or that I dwelled on things too much. In other words, my feelings weren’t important, and I should get over them.
One time I drew angry circles on my bedroom wall with a black crayon and was punished for it. Another time, I scratched gouges in my aunt’s new, wooden sewing machine console. I didn’t understand why I felt angry, and to this day I don’t remember what precipitated my destructive actions. What I do recall is that I couldn’t control myself. Like Helen, I simply exploded from holding it all inside.
Helen Keller is a hero because of the obstacles she surmounted and the goals she accomplished despite her extreme limitations. But Anne Sullivan is the true hero of this story. She could have given up on her pupil. I’m sure she was tempted at times, but instead, she persevered until she experienced a break-through. It happened at a water pump. Sullivan had been fingerspelling words for Helen, introducing her to labels for items in her everyday life, like doll, egg, flower, and leaf. Suddenly, after weeks of consistent practice, Helen understood that the water she felt running over her hand could be labeled by the fingerspelling w-a-t-e-r. From that point forward, a new world of language opened, and she began to communicate with the people around her. Without the loving, determined guidance of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller would have been committed to an institution, destined to live out her days in ignorance and silence. Anne Sullivan was Helen Keller’s salvation.
Music and writing saved me. At an early age I learned that singing and journaling were vehicles for expressing my deepest emotions safely. They still are.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Flights of Fancy

I’ve never been much of an animal lover. I spent more than half my life trying to avoid animals, especially the furry kind. Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain. As a child, I lived on a dairy farm where I was allergic to cows, horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, rabbits, any animal with fur and dander. Being near them caused me to wheeze, sneeze, itch, and feel like I had the flu and leprosy at the same time. As for rodents, despite Disney’s attempts to portray them as cute and cuddly, I’m simply terrified of them. So, you’ll pardon me if I don’t relate to animals immediately. Fortunately, my children and grandchildren did not inherit my allergies. All of them adore animals and enjoy multiple pets.

But what if I could be an animal? What if I had the power to turn myself into any animal I chose? Most dogs and cats seem to have it pretty good, but I’d choose to be a bird, not a caged bird, not a domesticated chicken or duck, but a wild, free bird of prey. Other animals—perhaps even humans—would be afraid of me, allowing me to soar, unconstrained and fearless. 

I’m convinced most people have dreamed they could fly. As long ago as the fifteenth century, Leonardo Da Vinci sketched his ornithopters based on observing birds. But like many other inventors before and after, Leonardo failed to consider the limitations of human physiology. 
Whenever I experience the flying dream, I’m aware, even in my dream state, that I don’t want to awaken. The sensations of buoyancy and freedom are far too pleasurable to terminate my best-ever nighttime fantasy. In the dream, my flight is effortless, and I’m untouchable. I have heard it said that flying dreams mean you are doing the right thing with your life. That concerns me because I haven’t had a flying dream in a long time.

As I observe birds like eagles, seagulls, and hawks coasting on the wind with their wings outstretched, their movements appear effortless. I watch them climbing, dipping, banking and diving with ease. There’s something about the thought of rising above the earth and its other inhabitants that awakens my senses and fulfills my fantasies.

The concept of traversing the skies without a road or flight path, floating over trees, mountains and buildings, is a desire common to humans throughout the ages. It is responsible for the invention of aviation. My husband, a retired aerospace engineer, spent six years mastering the principles of aviation. Wilbur and Orville Wright spent as many years studying, experimenting, and failing before finally accomplishing what birds have always done by instinct.

To be a bird, flying into the wind, perching on treetops and gazing downward at pitiable, earthbound creatures—what could be more exhilarating? Well…singing, of course. It so happens birds can do that too.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Visit her website: or Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Pet Peeve

People-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. The teacher in me especially enjoys observing parents as they interact (or fail to interact) with their children. I must admit to being brutally judgmental in that department. After all, my children are grown, and I’ve conveniently forgotten all my parenting mistakes. That qualifies me as an expert, right?

Yesterday my husband and I were eating lunch on the terrace of a local restaurant. It was a gorgeous sunshiny day, and a gentle breeze swirled through the courtyard as we waited for our food. Soon a couple entered with two young children and settled two tables away from ours. From working with children for more than forty years, I have an uncanny ability to pinpoint ages. After placing the one-year-old (I’ll call him Mikey) in a high chair and the six-year-old (Let’s call him Josh) next to him, the mom pulled out a coloring book and markers for Josh. Good job, I thought, you brought something to amuse your child while he waits. Her strategy would have worked beautifully had she not placed the siblings next to each other. As soon as Mom turned her attention to the menu, Mikey began grabbing markers from his brother who was coloring quietly, minding his own business. Of course, Josh raised his voice in frustration and tried to grab them back. Mom could have de-escalated the conflict quickly by seating herself between the children and distracting the toddler with an age-appropriate activity, but that’s not what happened. Instead, she scolded Josh harshly while Dad pulled out his phone, completely ignoring the situation.

“Stop that and be quiet, Josh!” Mom shouted across the table, her face twisted into an ugly scowl. “He’s only a baby.” Then she turned to Mikey with a doting smile and sugary voice. “Right, sweetie? Let’s give the marker back to Josh. Okaaaay, sweetie?” Well, that wasn’t going to happen willingly, as you can imagine. Now, with both kids screaming, Mom was going berserk, grabbing markers, slapping hands, and creating an unnecessary scene. Dad was still staring at his phone, and now the busy server stood waiting for their order. 

Unfortunately, I see similar situations play out nearly every time I eat at a restaurant or shop in a store. Often the parents ignore their children instead of interacting with them. Of course, kids are going to act out to get their parents’ attention. When they misbehave, they get scolded or worse, and an unnecessary scene erupts. Here is an opportunity to spend rare quality time communicating with children and teaching them important social skills, but either the parents are staring at a screen or correcting their children loudly and punitively. 

Instead of instructing their children proactively about the behavior they expect in various settings, many parents overreact with surprise when their children behave like normal kids in public settings. It’s almost as if these clueless adults are setting up conflict intentionally so they can exhibit power and control over the smaller, weaker humans in their care. I can’t help but wonder at what age Josh stopped being “sweetie” and turned into the object of his mother’s fury and his father’s disregard.

Cindy L. Freeman (a retired musician and music teacher) is the author of two award-winning short stories and four published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Friday, September 28, 2018

See Me

My name is Everett, and I’ve been told I’m a handsome guy. I’m feeling neglected today. In fact, I’ve been feeling that way for some time now. Here I sit in this lovely sunroom surrounded by greenery both inside and outside the expanse of windows. My setting is pleasant enough, but I’m not used to being idle and mute. I try to gain the attention of my mistress, but she walks past me to get to her laptop. Wouldn’t you think she’d notice me since I occupy nearly half the space of this room? I try to call out to her but cannot. Devoid of her attention I am constrained to silence.

For many years I received daily strokes and responded faithfully, but now she is more interested in writing. She sits only a few feet away, scarcely acknowledging my presence. If my legs were not stiff and wooden, I would stomp on that laptop of hers. I wonder what I’ve done to warrant this neglect. Have I become invisible?  

If I could express the depth of my emotions without her help, I would tell my mistress how abandoned I feel, that I miss her touch, and that I’m fairly bursting with repressed communication. Doesn’t she remember how fulfilled our interaction once made her feel? Has she forgotten how willingly I responded to her loving caresses, answering with the songs of my soul and hers?

Only a few months ago, my mistress spent a good deal of money to move me from our previous home to this condominium. I was heavy and required a specialized moving company. The careful attention to my safety and comfort made me feel valued and important, but only briefly.

My name is Everett, and my life’s purpose is to serve my mistress with sweet warbles, cooing and chirruping as she tickles me lovingly. Occasionally, she runs the feather duster over my smooth mahogany shell. Still it’s not enough to unlock the captive melody within. Pound me, kick me, scream at me. Any attention will do. But please don’t ignore me.
Cindy L. Freeman (a retired musician and music teacher) is the author of two award-winning short stories and four published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Thursday, September 20, 2018

An Attitude of Gratitude

By nature, I am a negative person. Unless I make a conscious effort to view life positively, I tend to see the glass as half empty. As someone who has suffered from depression, I can easily fall into a blue funk, focusing on everything that is wrong in the present or was wrong in the past.

It has taken a lifetime for me to understand that gratitude is more than an emotional reaction to the good that comes our way. Rather, gratitude is a decision. I decided to be grateful. I chose to look at life through a different lens, recognizing all the things for which I am thankful, both big and small. This “attitude of gratitude” is not the same as denial. Far from it. I don’t pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. Rather I focus my energy on addressing issues through direct, honest conversations with people. That way, interpersonal problems don’t fester and pollute my relationships. Often, I’ve had to deal with past mistakes and unresolved matters before I could open my heart to gratitude. 

Many years ago, someone gave me the book, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. As an accompaniment to that book, Breathnach published The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude which gives the reader a daily opportunity to record something for which s/he is grateful. Depending on our circumstances, it isn’t always easy to feel grateful. Sometimes we can’t think of a single thing to list. In the first few pages of the journal, Breathnach offers 150 suggestions of “often overlooked blessings.” Here’s a sampling:

·       Reading a book that changes your life
·       Serenity as you pay bills
·       Waking up early enough to watch the sunrise with a cup of tea of coffee
·       An afternoon to do as you please
·       Holding your child [grandchild] in your arms
·       Meeting a deadline

I must admit, as easy as this exercise sounds, I often fail at it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in anger, frustration, anxiety, or fear that I can’t seem to muster an ounce of gratitude. Instead of focusing on all that is good in my life, I fall into old patterns of feeling sorry for myself or allowing worry or doubt to overwhelm me. That’s when I pull out Breathnach’s book and start thanking God for my blessings, however insignificant. Sometimes my utterance is simply, “Thank you for life.”

The premise of saying “thank you” until I feel thankful is so simple that I end up wondering how I could have allowed my heart to close off from gratitude for even a minute. I’ve learned that gratitude has transformational power. Psalm 22:3 states that “God is enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” In other words, God inhabits the praise (gratitude; thankfulness) of God's people. As God’s child, I believe it, but sometimes I forget to own it.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Other Woman

I’m married to a bona fide geek. Every time I turn around, Carl has subjected our environment to another aspect of complicated technology. As grateful as I am that my retired computer systems analyst keeps my state-of-the-art laptop, phone, and iPad in tip-top condition, I usually respond to any changes with frustration. Every innovation, adjustment, or update creates for me a new learning curve.

Before we moved into our condo last year, Carl spent weeks automating it with Google. Now, whenever he arrives home after doing an errand, Google announces, “Carl has arrived!” preceded by  a cheesy musical fanfare. If we want the kitchen lights turned on, we say, “Hey, Google, kitchen on.” Likewise, he has programmed commands for all the other lights, the TVs, the computers and printers, and the door locks. At bedtime, all we have to say is, “Hey, Google, good night.” This command turns off all the lights, locks the outside doors, closes the garage door, gives us a local weather report, and activates relaxing spa music that turns off automatically after ninety minutes.

So, what’s the problem? Often, I wonder if we of the twenty-first century are becoming slaves to artificial intelligence, instead of the other way around. I recall the disturbing actions of HAL the computer in the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey and wonder what kind of sinister plan is being hatched by Google, Siri, and Alexa to overthrow the human population. The signs are there. Who knows? Clandestine meetings may be underway at this moment.

Already Carl talks to Google more than he talks to me. As I sit writing, I hear him carrying on conversations with inanimate objects throughout the house. What’s scary is that I’ve gotten used to it and usually ignore their back-and-forth discourse.

How is a wife supposed to compete with an entity—sexy female voice and all—that does her husband’s bidding any time of the day or night, responding with, "Yes, master."? As long as I can keep writing my blogs and novels uninterrupted, I suppose I should try to get used to it…or should I say “her.?” Now if Carl could program Google to do the laundry, life would be perfect.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home, (launching September 23, 2018). Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

No Rest for the Writer

I can think of nothing more relaxing than spending a beautiful, summer evening sitting in a graveyard. That’s right. A graveyard. On Sunday evenings, the Yorktown Summer Music Series features music performed in the cemetery of Grace Episcopal Church. Last night we took a picnic supper, a bottle of wine, and folding chairs to enjoy the music of one of our favorite local bands, Poisoned Dwarf.

The cemetery was nestled under a canopy of trees that surely must be as old as some of the departed who have rested beneath them for two hundred years or more. Many of the tombstones were broken or so worn you couldn’t read the inscriptions. I found myself thinking about the lives of the people buried there. I started imagining stories about them, wondering whether they had lived during the Revolutionary War or perhaps died because of the war. Had some of them fought on the nearby battlefields or traversed the river down the hill from the cemetery? Had they been active members of the Episcopal church that served as a backdrop for the concert? 

I tried to imagine the life of one woman whose husband had died many years before she did. Was she left to raise a brood of children on her own? One tombstone reminded me that infant mortality was high in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Losing children to disease was a common occurrence in the generations before vaccinations and good medical care. But the heartfelt inscriptions indicated the loss was no less painful for those parents.

As I sipped my wine from a plastic flute, my imagination soared. I found myself assigning faces, personalities, and settings to both the deceased and their survivors. I started making up stories in my head and wishing I had taken my laptop to the concert.

I began to glance around at the other concertgoers and wondered about their lives and their stories. Where had they lived, traveled, worshipped, worked, and raised their families? Who might be dealing with chronic illness, a cancer diagnosis, divorce or the recent death of a loved one? When they laid their heads on their pillows each night, what was on their minds just before going to sleep?

I went to the concert to relax and take a break from writing. But my mind wouldn’t shut down and let me simply enjoy the music and the pleasant breeze. I’ve heard other authors of fiction mention this sometimes-frustrating phenomenon. Every situation we encounter and every person we meet inspires us to write. Fortunately, retirement affords me time to do just that every day.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Life is a Song

My whole life has been centered around music. Music saved me from a lonely childhood, and music was a tool for healing my broken spirit during a difficult period of adulthood. God bestowed on me a musical gift which was recognized early. Both my grandmother and mother encouraged me to use it and develop it.

When I was a child, every family gathering centered around music. After dinner, the family would assemble near the piano where my sister and I would sing and play duets. The session usually ended with all of us singing a favorite hymn like "Amazing Grace" or "The Old Rugged Cross."

Often during road trips, we would sing to pass the time. Songs like “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” and “You are My Sunshine” lent themselves to our own arrangements in three-part harmony.

I got a lot of practice in my small, country church where I sang solos and played the piano while my sister played the organ. School also provided many opportunities to perform. My high school choral director was an unpleasant man who didn’t seem to like teaching or kids. However, he selected me for county and state chorus every year of high school, which meant I had the privilege of working with some excellent choral directors who inspired me.

Determined to make a career of music, I majored in music education in college which led me to a forty-five-year career in that field. It included teaching middle school general music and maintaining a private piano studio. I also directed church choirs and a community chorus. Finally, in 1989, I established a music school where I taught Musikgarten to hundreds of children, ages four through twelve and group piano for adults. What a rich, satisfying career it was! How grateful and blessed I was with such varied opportunities to share my love of music!

When I retired in 2016, I assumed my working days were over. I never could have envisioned a whole second career as an author. But once again, God blessed me, this time with opportunities to share my love of writing. On September 23rd, I’ll be launching my third novel, I Want to Go Home.

Both careers have involved a lot of hard work, but each has been fulfilling. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in and share both my passions: music and writing. Whether I choose to express myself through music or writing, life is a song.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

My Third Baby is Due in September

Okay, it’s not a real baby. That would require a miracle… in my case, more than one miracle. But I can’t help comparing the launch of a new novel to the birth of a baby.

Crafting a book requires approximately the same gestation period as growing a fetus, often longer. During this period, an author conceives an idea and begins the exciting process of developing its plot, scenes, and characters. She gives it a working title, names its characters, shapes their personalities, and chooses carefully just the right words and phrases to paint a mental picture for the reader.

She carries her “baby” close to her heart, day after day, nurturing it with research, consultation, and advice. She pictures it in her mind, walks with it, sleeps with it, talks to it, analyzes it, brings it to a satisfying conclusion, then rests for a while. There is still much to do to prepare for the birth.

As the due date draws near, the author reads, edits, re-reads and re-edits. Now the real work begins. That’s why it’s called labor. The pains start when the author must write a synopsis and a query letter to submit to an agent or publisher. She risks rejection but pushes through the pain, sometimes again and again.

Enough of the birth analogy. Writing a novel is satisfying. Publishing a novel is risky. Marketing a novel is plain hard work. It starts with the launch. I have written and submitted my third novel to High Tide Publications. I Want to Go Home will be in print and ready to launch next month. As soon as I get a publication date from High Tide, I’ll set a launch date and location. I hope you can come. If not, please order I Want to Go Home from or I think you’ll enjoy reading it.

Here’s an advance review by Sharon Dorsey, Author of Daughter of the Mountains, Tapestry, and two children’s books, Herman the Hermit Crab and Revolt of the Teacups: 

“I WANT TO GO HOME is an inspiring story for and about the times in which we live. It chronicles the struggles of an ordinary family that goes from middle class to homeless due to a chain of events that could affect any one of us. It illustrates the strong bonds between siblings and the part that faith can play in overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles. The characters are so well-drawn, they come alive on the pages. We ache with them in their low moments and cheer them on as they battle the situations in which they find themselves. Throughout, I found myself asking the question – could I have walked in their shoes and successfully emerged on the other side of the problems, defiant in my self-worth and stronger in my faith? This is a must-read you won’t be able to put down until the triumphant, heart-warming conclusion.”

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Mountaintop Experience

Yesterday, during our annual stay in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I gazed beyond our balcony, across the valley, into the ever-changing vista and asked the question: what is it about the mountains that draws us back year after year? In August, the obvious answer is cooler temperatures. My husband and I enjoy getting away from the day-after-day, ninety-degree inferno and high humidity that characterize summers in Williamsburg. Here in the mountains we can hike and play tennis without suffering heat exhaustion. We can sleep with the windows open and eat our meals al fresco on the balcony. But my attraction to the mountains is so much more than the pleasant weather.

Now that the fog has lifted, and the deluge of rain has ceased, I can contemplate the majesty of God’s creation. Yes, if I look to my right and to my left, I see condominiums lining the ridge. At night I can spot the lights of Charlottesville, reminding me that civilization with all its stresses and complications is but a few miles away. Occasionally in the valley below, I hear indications of human interference like traffic and construction noise. But, if I focus on the splendor of God’s handiwork, I find myself filled with mouth-open awe.

The Blue Ridge with its mountains of varying sizes is painted myriad shades of blue, green or purple depending on the time of day. The view, with its azure sky, constantly evolving cloud formations, and periodic sightings of native creatures like hawks, butterflies, groundhogs and rabbits, is never static or stagnant. I follow the setting sun as it pulls shadows across the landscape, then disappears below the horizon. I’m reminded of God’s power and majesty.

In contrast to the vast expanse of peaks and valleys, I become aware of my own insignificance in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Yet, as I remember that the Creator of the universe loves me, even me, I am humbled and grateful. It is this spiritual reset that draws me to the mountains. As long as I’m able, I’ll return next year and the year after that.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the AtticUnrevealed and The Dark Room. Coming soon from High Tide Publications: I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or