Friday, November 22, 2019

Why I Love Advent


The month of November brings thoughts of celebrations with all the trimmings we associate with the holidays. We think of feasting at large tables shared with loved ones, adding festive decorations to our homes, and buying just the right gift for each friend and family member. We plan parties, attend concerts, and embark on trips that take us “over the river and through the woods." Our moods are lifted by familiar carols, sparkling lights, and Hallmark Christmas specials. It’s the time of year that most of us anticipate with delight, even though we know it will involve a measure of harried rushing about.

But that's not why I love the season of Advent. Rather than encouraging us to surrender to all the busyness that we’ve come to associate with Christmas preparations, Advent invites us to slow our pace and focus on our spiritual preparation. From the Latin word adventus, advent means “coming.” In the church calendar, Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. For Christians, the season of Advent, starting twenty-four days before Christmas, bids us to prepare our minds for the coming of Christ, the promised Messiah. It opens our hearts to receive the hope, peace, joy and love that are symbolized by the candles on an Advent wreath.

Since we live in a fallen world, filled with fallen people, including ourselves, it’s often challenging to place our hope in the future. Every day brings news of yet another terrible event somewhere in the world. With media sources that clamor to report negative news, each in the most sensational way, we begin to lose hope that God is still in charge and will ultimately triumph. Sometimes it seems like evil is winning. And what about peace? Is peace on earth even possible? Gradually our joy is depleted as hate seems stronger than love. But that’s exactly why God sent Jesus to replace hate with love.

Ours is not the first generation to feel hopeless, joyless, devoid of peace and longing to know God’s love. “O Come, O Come Immanuel” is one of the best-known Advent carols. The text, originating in the ninth century, speaks of the Israelites’ longing for a savior to release them from captivity. They “mourn in lonely exile” feeling hopeless and without joy. They plead with God to send a Messiah, a Savior who will “bind all peoples in one heart and mind.” The Israelites were expecting an earthly king to deliver them from captivity. But God had a mightier plan. He sent His son, Jesus, to offer deliverance to all people, deliverance from sin and death.

It’s fundamentally impossible to commercialize the season of Advent. But leave it to retail corporations to give it their best shot with the likes of “Elf on a Shelf” and those Advent calendars that hide a piece of chocolate candy behind each day leading up to Christmas. Not that there’s anything wrong with helping children count down the days. It’s just that the twenty-four days of Advent are about so much more than moving an elf or finding a piece of candy. During the twenty-four days of Advent we are encouraged to connect or re-connect with God in a personal and powerful way through meditation, study, prayer and inspiring music. That’s why I love Advent.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Charlie


I was drawn to Charlie because of his humility, kindness, and gentle manner. He would stop by my office after finishing his volunteer shift at the Respite Care Center housed in the same building. I could tell that his wife’s unrelenting pain drew worry lines in his face. One day, he told me she could no longer sit in the pew and had to stay home from church. He said she had given up hope of ever experiencing relief and prayed daily for the Lord to “take her home.” I promised to continue praying for her healing, but mainly that she would find strength, comfort, and peace. We both assumed she would go first, that he would be able to care for her lovingly until the end. There was never a hint of resentment in his voice, only frustration that he couldn’t do anything to relieve her pain. Our brief encounters always ended with a warm hug.

That was the extent of my relationship with Charlie. After a few years of his “stop-bys” I noticed he was slowing down. He developed a shuffle and began walking with a cane, but he never considered discontinuing his volunteer job. I learned from the Respite Care manager that he loved his work there, and the clients loved this man of few words who had more than enough compassion to go around.

Charlie ended up in Hospice Care and eventually passed away at the age of 83. His obituary was only two paragraphs long, referring to his sixty-three-year marriage, his two daughters, one grandson, some siblings, nieces and nephews. That was it.

At his memorial service, I learned that Charlie’s legacy was one of quiet service. He was greatly influenced by a mission trip he had taken to Latvia. After that trip, he continued to support the home for unwed mothers and their children that our church helped establish. As a member of the church’s “Tool Guys,” he quietly accomplished odd jobs around the building and helped people in the community who couldn’t afford to pay for home repairs. His service to Respite Care was never mentioned. While I was surprised by the omission, I knew that’s how Charlie would have wanted it.

On the surface, Charlie’s life seemed to be one of little significance. He lived an existence devoid of fanfare. His accomplishments were few...or were they? 

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: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  

Monday, September 30, 2019

Embracing Peace



I spent much of my adult life striving, planning, and reaching for self-imposed goals. For many years, I tried to find my worth through my career and achievements. I was lured by the false premise that the so-called American dream must be attained in one’s lifetime for that life to be considered worthwhile. A schedule filled with busyness, activities, and frenzy shows that life is full and rewarding. Right?


I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between an accomplished life and a significant life. I’m not saying that accomplishment is a negative goal, but that a life of significance strives first to glorify God. When our accomplishments honor God they are significant.

Does our striving for significance mean we’re seeking perfection? Only Jesus lived a perfect earthly life because, while Jesus was fully human, He was also fully divine. Jesus wasn’t just a good person who did good deeds and cared about others. He was God in the flesh.

In our humanness, we are incapable of achieving perfection during our earthly lives. But peace results when we strive to obey and glorify God through our accomplishments. While achieving perfection in our lifetime is not possible, I believe peace is an achievable goal.

The formula for peace is simple in theory but not in practice: seek God’s will in all things, confess to those we have harmed and seek their forgiveness, confess our sins to God, and ask for God’s forgiveness. Though challenging, these goals are achievable. But there’s one more part to the formula, and I’m convinced it is the most challenging: forgive ourselves.

Recently, my sister and I were discussing regret. Both of us harbor regrets regarding our deceased parents. I don’t think we’re alone in this feeling. The problem with regret is that it holds the power to block peace. Regret is possibly the most difficult emotion to resolve. Usually, the people we harmed—or think we harmed—are gone from this earthly life, and we are left with if-onlys. If only I had said or done this or that. If only I hadn’t said or done this or that.

I’ve learned that, although it may be too late to resolve our if-onlys with the people we’ve harmed, it’s never too late to seek God’s forgiveness. Believers are promised that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even regret. When we harbor regret, it’s difficult to accept that God’s forgiveness is both free and final. We keep taking back the regret and carrying it around like a teenager’s backpack filled with heavy books. Regret weighs us down, causing us to drag through our days, maybe even keeping us awake at night, until finally after the tenth time or hundredth time of shaming ourselves, we accept God’s forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and embrace the peace that God has been offering all along.


Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Meaningful Work


Every September, I enjoy scrolling through the back-to-school pictures posted on Facebook. I’ve “friended” the parents of many children I taught at the Early Childhood Music School and children who participated in my choirs, some as long ago as forty years. What a joy it is to watch them grow up, go off to college, embrace careers, and raise families of their own. It’s especially heartening to see how many are still involved in music.  

When I retired from teaching and choral directing four years ago, I never dreamed I’d be returning to music education. I even embarked on a new career as an author. But I missed choral conducting, and I dearly missed working with young people. So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to teach again, I couldn’t resist. With some trepidation, I accepted the position as director of the high school chorus at Walsingham Academy, known as The Madrigals.

I wondered if I’d have enough energy to work with teenagers again. I prayed about making the right decision both for the students and for me. I worried the job might take too much time away from my husband, children and grandchildren … and my writing, of course. When I walked into the new- teacher orientation and discovered the other new teachers were young enough to be my grandchildren, I wondered if I had deluded myself into thinking I could handle the position at my age.

I needn’t have worried. After two weeks working at this superb school with delightful students, supportive parents, and dedicated colleagues, I find myself energized, motivated, and thrilled to be back in academia, doing what I love, what I was born to do. Since the position is part-time, I still have time for my family, my volunteering, and my writing. The only significant adjustment has been rising and trying to shine at 5:30 am instead of my retirement time of 7:30, but it’s not every day. In fact, the schedule fits my lifestyle perfectly.

When I visit elderly friends in assisted living facilities, they often remark that they feel useless, spending the bulk of their days in front of the television. The hours drag by as they have little more to look forward to than their daily naps, meals, and swallowing mega-doses of meds. After leading full lives of raising families, building and sustaining meaningful careers, and active volunteering, they strongly desire to continue being productive. Their minds are sharp and filled with wisdom that they long to share. Despite still having much to offer, they are often ignored, and their aged bodies fail them, resulting in frustration.

This September, I am reminded of how blessed I am by this opportunity to be productive in my senior years. I understand my time for productivity is limited, accepting that my body will eventually fail me. Every day, I thank God for the blessing of meaningful work.

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: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Maybe You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks


Two weeks ago, I came out of retirement to return to music education, which is why I haven’t written a blog in a while. I’m teaching high school choral music in a private Catholic school just down the street from where I taught early childhood music for twenty-seven years. I’m thrilled to be back in the classroom, working with motivated young people, dedicated colleagues, and superb administrators. 


However, my new adventure hasn’t been without challenges. After four years of retirement, I forgot how much focus and energy teaching demands. I'm determined to be organized, stay positive, and take care of my health, but I've had to make some major adjustments to both my schedule and my mindset.

Here are a few random discoveries I’ve made in the last two weeks:

  • Starting each day with gratitude carries positive energy throughout the day, even when that day begins at 5:30 am.
  • Brushing your teeth in the dark can result in unwanted surprises. For instance, whitening toothpaste also whitens blue shirts. 
  • If you’ve misplaced your glasses, the first place to look is on top of your head; likewise, wearing glasses in the shower is not recommended. 
  • A narcissist won’t recognize himself in your comments, so you might as well save your breath.
  • Every American now knows the definition of “narcissist.” Except one, that is. 
  • Okay, those last two items have nothing to do with my new job, but I couldn't resist.
  • Laundry gets cleaner when you remember to put detergent in the washing machine. 
  • Starting a new job at the age of seventy is either extremely optimistic or extremely naive. 
  • According to the driver behind me this morning, turning right on red is not optional. 
  • Spending time trying to make life fair is a waste of time. 
  • When HGTV throws a pillow, it’s a design element; when I throw a pillow, it’s clutter. 
  • No one can steal your peace without your permission; one can be peaceful in the midst of chaos. 
  • When your friend leaves her cell phone at your house, calling her cell phone to alert her of the fact is generally ineffective. 
  • The most amazing thing about God’s love is that it’s as if each of us is the only object of that love. 
  • Ending each day with gratitude ensures a good night’s sleep...especially after getting up at 5:30 am.
Undoubtedly, many more discoveries and valuable lessons await me...which goes to prove you can teach an old dog new tricks.
  
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: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Cheerleader


Every writer needs a cheerleader. Chances are, unless your name is Baldacci, King, or Steele you aren’t writing for money or fame. Sometimes you need a cheerleader to encourage you to persevere. Like when you spend all day at an author event and sell one book. Like when you read your published novel for the first time and discover ten typos.

My husband, Carl, is my cheerleader. Does he perform jumps and cartwheels? No. Does he shout and clap when I publish a new novel? No. So, how does he perform his role as cheerleader, you ask? In silence, of course. That’s right. He gives me the gift of silence so I can retreat into my fictional worlds of scenes, characters, and dialogues. When the door to my writing space is closed, Carl knows his life is in danger if he dares to enter. Writing is a solitary profession that requires … well … solitude.

There are so many other ways my husband cheers me on as a writer. Since he’s a techno-geek of the highest order, I rely on him to keep my computer, tablet, and credit card reader running smoothly. Without him reminding me, I’d never think to update my devices. I barely remember to charge them. I don’t have enough fingers to count the times I’ve texted or called him from a book show to say, “Help, I can’t get on the internet” or “Help, I don’t remember how to access PayPal” or “Help, my hotspot isn’t working” or “Help, I forgot my password.” He’s always there to talk me through a problem. 

Granted, sometimes Carl's reminder of “I’ve showed you how to do that a million times” makes me feel stupid, but how can he understand that my mind is too full of outlining, plotting, grammar, syntax, tense, synonyms, elevator speeches, proofreading, revising, and meeting deadlines to remember how to process a credit card purchase? If he could climb inside my head, he’d see what a crazy mess it is in there.

It’s hard for me to promote myself as an author. It feels like childish bragging. Yet self-promotion is what we authors must do to market our books. We must create and maintain an author platform. Jane Friedman, one of the world’s leading English-language publishers, defines author platform as the “ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” If I want to sell my books, I must create an author platform for each book I write and promote it through a website,  blog site, social media, email blasts, local author events, and book signings. Marketing is another full-time job, it seems.

My cheerleader tells everyone he meets that his wife is a published author and that they should read my novels and blog posts. In fact, he introduces himself as Mr. Cindy Freeman. As a former rocket scientist/systems analyst, Carl is secure enough in himself to promote his wife without feeling a threat to his self-esteem.

My cheerleader helps me with launches—book launches, not the rocket variety—also inventory, bookkeeping, and taxes, to satisfy the IRS. Did I mention he does the grocery shopping and cooking? With a cheerleader like him, who needs cheers, jumps, and cartwheels?  

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: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  

Thursday, June 20, 2019

My Inspiration Garden

(Photo by Mark Bolton)

When I visited my grandmother’s house as a child, I saw a small framed print hanging on the wall in her bedroom. The painting may or may not have been famous. I never noticed the artist’s name. It was inconsequential then. But, after all these years, my mind’s eye can still gaze upon the scene as clearly as my child’s eyes once did.

This captivating artwork depicted an old English cottage* surrounded by a low stone wall. It beckoned me to swing open the wooden gate and enter its Victorian garden where summer roses, cheerful daisies, and pink hollyhocks competed for space, spilling over the front walk. Unlike a formal English garden with its tidy boxwood hedges, manicured lawns and neatly trimmed walkways, this parcel was messy, crowded, and exquisitely beautiful. It looked as if the gardener had tripped while carrying his load of seeds, accidently spreading them in wild chaotic non-patterns.

At either end of the cottage’s thatched roof, swirls of smoke stretched upward from solid stone chimneys to mingle with the billowy clouds above. A trellis of climbing ivy surrounded the home’s sturdy wooden door, and deep-set windows with black shutters and mullions invited me to press my nose against the wavy panes.

Because the rear garden was not visible from my favorite viewing spot where I nestled among Grandma’s pillows, I appointed myself as official landscape architect of all that lay hidden behind the cottage. Following the stone footpath around the corner and through a vine-covered pergola, I entered the backyard where my purposefully arranged flowerbeds bordered a curvy patch of verdant lawn. Here the trail meandered between generous clusters of blooms, separating them according to genus and species. Flitting butterflies, hummingbirds, and honeybees devised their own paths, feigning ignorance of local air traffic regulations. 
 
Willow trees reached their weeping arms over the stone fortress just far enough to offer privacy, but not so much as to shade the flowers from life-giving sunlight. Selected to bloom all summer and into autumn, these beauties emitted sweet, intoxicating scents. Roses, gardenias, jasmine, and peonies competed for first place in my olfactory contest but kindly kept their pollen on the canvas. Behind them at the wall’s edge, neatly pruned shrubs of holly, laurel, and euonymus stood as sentries, guarding the vibrant annuals and perennials.

Beside a small pond where lily pads floated and frogs performed their nightly choruses, I positioned an ornate wrought iron table painted white. Two matching chairs, their seats softened by thick floral cushions, completed the grouping shaded by low-hanging branches from the only tree permitted within the garden wall.  

As a child, I made no effort to lock the painting in my mind’s eye. I was barely conscious of its effect on me then. Yet it sparked my imagination and still does. Even now, whenever writer’s block threatens, the cottages’ back garden is where I set up my laptop and invite my muse to join me for a cup of Earl Grey tea.

*I’ve attempted to find the original watercolor from which the print was taken. A Google search of “old English cottages” took me to numerous websites and hundreds of images but failed to produce the exact painting. The site https://www.zazzle.com offered the closest image. Entitled “Cottage in the English Gardens Poster” produced by Koobear’s Photography & Design, the poster depicts a “lovely little cottage nestled among the flowers in Assiniboine Park.” This English garden is not in England, but rather in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and, for a reasonable price, you can have its image reproduced on t-shirts, notecards, calendars, neckties or just about any surface you choose.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Food: Friend or Foe?


I used to think food was my enemy. When anyone would talk about enjoying a normal-sized meal, I couldn’t relate. How could they refer to food in a positive manner? Food was bad, right? Food was the enemy that I battled day in and day out. It was responsible for my weight problem.

Even when I wasn’t fat, I thought I was. I would look in a mirror and see an overweight person. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by my latest binge. Ironically, now when I view photos from certain periods of my past, I realize that my weight was perfectly normal, and I didn’t look fat at all.

The condition is called body image dysmorphia. For me, as for many—especially girls and women—body image dysmorphia often results in one of several eating disorders, primarily anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or compulsive over-eating.

For most of my life, I’ve been a compulsive overeater. Always hungry, always thinking about food, I often indulged in binge eating, especially during stressful times. I knew if I started eating sugary or starchy foods, I wouldn’t be able to stop until I felt like I might explode. While I was binging, food provided comfort, but afterward I felt ashamed and worthless. It was a vicious cycle having something to do with the addictive property of sucrose, but more with unaddressed emotional issues. 

If I had an event coming up for which I wanted desperately to appear slim or to fit into a certain outfit, I would engage in a starvation diet, losing from two to five pounds, depending on how many days I gave myself to prepare. During this time of fasting, all I could think about was how hungry I was and how deprived I felt. My blood-sugar would plummet, my head would pound, and I felt like I might pass out.

Throughout young adulthood and middle age, I yo-yo dieted, trying to keep my weight where I thought it should be. I exercised faithfully, but my weight continued to creep higher and higher. Honestly, I thought it was hopeless. I couldn’t see my way out of a condition that controlled me all day, every day. For me, food—particularly sugar—was an addiction as powerful as alcohol for an alcoholic or cocaine for a drug addict. The problem with food addiction is that you can’t simply stop eating.

Finally, at the ripe old age of seventy, my eating is under control. I feel okay about my body image, and I have no urge to binge. So, how did I finally achieve a healthy relationship with food? First, through journaling, I addressed unresolved emotional issues from childhood. By consciously recognizing my binging triggers, I gave myself permission to feel anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment, frustration, and regret. In childhood, I was not allowed to feel or display negative emotions. Authenticity was discouraged and even ridiculed by the adults in my life. Not that my situation was unique. I grew up during a time when emotional repression was the norm. 

For years, I heeded messages about eating a low-fat, “lite” diet to be healthy and slim. Recognizing I was addicted to sugar, I tried more than once to purge it from my system, but I loved dessert. I’d stay on a sugar-free diet for six months or so, replacing sucrose with unhealthy sugar substitutes so I could get my dessert-fix. Then, like an alcoholic, I’d fall off the wagon and end up binging on sweets, feeling shame, and gaining weight. Again it seemed like food was the enemy.

Nothing changed until I started eating more fat. That’s right, more fat! Without mentioning a specific program, let me just say that embracing fat has changed my life for the better. Fat fills me up so I don’t feel hungry ten minutes after a meal. Since I’ve always had high cholesterol, I became concerned about raising it further. I wondered if I was doing more harm than good by increasing my fat intake. But eating more fat is what helped me finally give up sugar forever. The best news is I’ve lost sixteen pounds, and my cholesterol and blood glucose levels are the lowest they have ever been.
 
I limit simple carbohydrates like bread and cereal. But, honestly—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—I don’t miss them or sugar. I’ve found a recipe for delicious waffles made from almond flour that I eat twice a week. I allow myself pizza once a week and enjoy a glass of Prosecco nearly every evening. I smother my waffles and pancakes with real butter and all-fruit jam. I snack on nuts or cheese or veggies with dip. I enjoy chocolate milkshakes made from frozen bananas, whole-milk yogurt and cocoa sweetened with stevia. I eat real bacon and eggs once or twice a week and best of all, I enjoy my food more than ever.

Food is no longer my enemy. Instead, I embrace it, enjoy it, and eat without shame. How liberating!

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Monday, May 20, 2019

Rainy Days


Remember the song, “Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters? Before I retired, I often dreaded rainy days, especially Mondays. Like the Carpenters, they always got me down.

When I was teaching full-time, rainy days meant that my classrooms looked dreary and my students would arrive dripping, droopy, and lethargic. I understood because I, too, lacked energy. On rainy days, I had to work twice as hard to infuse vitality into my teaching and engage my students’ interest and enthusiasm. 
 
Now that I work from home, all that has changed. I look forward to rainy days. The sun room where I write is cheerful, rain or shine. The teasing sun calls me outside to play, but a hypnotic pitter-patter against the windowpanes relaxes me and bids me to recline with my laptop and enter the worlds of my imagination.

I gaze upward through the arch of a high Palladian window and watch clouds rushing by. Even gray clouds remind me that all of life is movement--forward movement of mind, body and soul. I think about the blessings that rain brings to the earth as it waters the trees, flowers, and grass, providing life-sustaining hydration for animals and humans, alike.

Tree branches catch the wind and dance freely, reaching outward and upward. They appear to be swirling in space, unattached. I stop to watch God’s ballet recital, no admission ticket required.

I offer a silent prayer of thanks for life and sustenance, for meaningful work both present and past, for whatever the future holds. When a stray sunbeam peeks through the grayness, ephemeral yet piercing, I’m reminded of how God’s love can penetrate even our darkest days…if we are ready to receive it.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.author. Her books are available through amazon.com or http://hightidepublications.com/

Friday, May 10, 2019

Animal Whisperer



I live with an animal whisperer. My husband talks to the wild animals that gather around our condo building, and they come to him without hesitation.

The main thing Carl misses about our former house and backyard is observing and interacting with the animals: squirrels, rabbits, owls, deer, raccoons, and numerous birds. He claimed them all as his friends. He used to sit on the deck and enjoy the wildlife. He insisted he could tell one squirrel from another, naming them William, Kate, Harry and Jake. Jake was the troublemaker who often robbed the bird feeder. Jake required regular pops from Carl’s pellet gun because Jake's memory of the disciplinary act lasted no longer than two days.

Carl named the rabbits Blackie and Brownie and the owls were Hooty and Screech. Unfortunately, Blackie and Brownie and their progeny were no match for Hooty and Screech. I’ll spare you the fur-flying details. Then, there was Rocky the raccoon who visited whenever we had fish for dinner. In the evening, Rocky would show up at the edge of the woods, waiting for his culinary treat of fish skins.


Nearly every morning, Carl took the strawberry tops from our breakfast and spread them in the backyard to feed the prolific deer population. Although I didn’t appreciate sharing my flowerbeds with them, they were, after all, invited to breakfast. How were they to know my flowers and shrubs weren’t on the menu? 
      
One night a doe gave birth in our backyard. Sometime after midnight, Carl had gotten up to watch a rocket launch on TV when he heard what sounded like a baby’s cry. He had just stepped onto the deck to search the backyard when a meteor streaked across the sky. 


The next morning, we found a tiny fawn curled up on our front porch. Carl named it Shooting Star and watched over it for two days. By the third day, he wondered if the mother had lost track of her baby, especially since it had somehow made it from the backyard to the front porch. He shooed it off the porch, and it bounded into the woods. The next day, we spotted Shooting Star with its mother. So, all was well. 

When we moved to our condo, my husband began to think his days of animal whispering had come to an end. No more staring contests with owls that perched on the deck lamppost right next to his head; no more squirrels arguing with him about which food was intended for them and which was for the birds; no more fawns curled up on the front porch or herds of deer waiting in our driveway to welcome us home in the evenings. 


One morning, Carl stepped outside the condo to fill the birdfeeder, and a wobbly newborn fawn walked up to him, sniffed him, and licked his hand. They conversed for a while. Then, worried that the baby might get hit by a car, Carl led her back across the street, down the ravine and into the woods. He named her Sweetie Pie and gave her strict orders to stay away from the street. Sweetie Pie seems to have followed his cautionary directions.


Yesterday, Carl went outside to water the potted plants. Rounding the corner toward the garage he spotted two rabbits. One hopped up to him, sniffed his shoe, then looked up with large round “sad” eyes. The animal whisperer chatted with him, requesting that he not eat the tiny crop of jalapeƱo peppers he had planted in a pot. Then, his furry friend called to a buddy who also came for a chat. Brownie and Blackie reincarnated? I wonder.



Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Monday, April 29, 2019

Music or No Music?


My husband, Carl, finds it strange that I don’t listen to music as a pastime, especially since I’ve been a musician my whole life. He fills every waking moment with music playing in the background while I prefer silence, especially when I’m writing.

Carl doesn’t understand why I don’t enjoy listening to music, and I can’t comprehend how he functions with constant auditory stimulation in his environment. Now that we’re retired and spending much time at home together, we’ve had to compromise on this diametrically opposed preference.

As a former educator, I’ve been curious about this phenomenon, wondering if it is related to individual learning styles, right-brain/left-brain functions or simply long-established habits. Carl claims he’s more productive when his “tunes” are playing. Yet, he doesn’t seem to notice what he’s listening to. For him, music acts as white noise blocking out other sounds that he might find distracting.

For me, music—particularly if it’s music I like—absorbs my full attention, making it hard for me to carry on a conversation or accomplish a task that requires concentration. For example, when we are cooking together, Carl likes to have music blaring in the kitchen, whether classical, blues, ’60s rock ’n roll, or Celtic. I, on the other hand, find it difficult to attend to the recipe because I start analyzing chord progressions, musical form, orchestrations, and meter. If it is choral music—my favorite—I become positively useless as a sous chef.

When I was a Musikgarten teacher, one of the most important skills I taught my young students was to be active listeners. I encouraged them to pay attention to the elements of music as they listened. Before playing a musical example for them, whether live or recorded, I would suggest something specific for the students’ focus, like a repeating melodic motif or rhythmic pattern. I might ask them to identify an instrument or the family of instruments or listen for the form of a piece, devising a characteristic dance movement for each section. I taught them conducting patterns to help them determine the meter. But the most effective means of response was through free movement, when they were encouraged to use their whole bodies. After they moved in response to the music, the children were able to identify whether it was quick or slow, light or strong, loud or quiet, smooth or jerky. With this method, they could relate to musical terms like legato/staccato, forte/piano, allegro/lento and others so that even four-year-old children connected with the concepts in a functional way.

I enjoy performing music, and I appreciate live concerts where I can focus on the musicians, instruments, and compositions, but I find background music to be an unwelcome distraction to my thoughts and an interruption of my tasks.

Carl’s premise is that because he doesn’t know enough about music theory to indulge the technical aspects of music, he simply lets it happen without analyzing why he likes or dislikes it. He compares it to my disinterest in science fiction, one of his favorite subjects. Since I’m not a scientist, I don’t understand enough about the technical aspects of spaceships, orbital mechanics, astrophysics, and quantum mechanics to know what’s real and what’s fiction. To me, one rocket launch looks the same as any other rocket launch. 

It would make an interesting research study. As for me, I require silence for my right brain to be productive. Thankfully, Carl’s office has a door I can close. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com