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