Posted in News Updates

The End of Two Decades

photo of gray concrete road in the middle of jungle during daylight
Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

May 31st marked the end of 20 years of employment at Liberty Mutual Insurance. Making that decision to retire and move on to the next chapter of my life was not done lightly. I’m not certain what that will entail, and if I’m honest with myself (which I try to be), I feel a bit uncertain of the direction I’m headed. Having worked so long, you get set in a routine. Sometimes that was exactly what I needed, but other times, it felt more like a cinder block was tied to my ankle, holding me down. Don’t get me wrong…I know I was exactly where God wanted me to be for the last 20 years of employment. He opened that door in 1999, and I was content. All of that changed about a year ago. Nothing specific, just a feeling of needing something fresh and different. At 60, you probably think I’m a little late for anything new and adventurous, but have faith! I have a feeling it could surprise us.

Yesterday morning, I didn’t have my alarm to wake me up, but my body automatically woke up at 6:15. You have no idea how nice it was to be able to roll over and go back to sleep for a few more hours. Today, I met with a good friend for breakfast and had one of my granddaughters come over and go swimming. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the start of being a little more free to do “other” things with my days besides sitting in a cubicle with a headset attached to my head! I don’t have to log in and log out for breaks and lunch. I can eat when I want, where I want or even IF I want.

My last day of work was extremely busy, but my supervisor still managed to throw me a very nice retirement party. Lot’s of cards, cake, flowers, balloons, and laughter. A few tears too. You don’t work at a place for 20 years and not make longtime friends.

What do I plan to do with my time off? Everyone asked me that, all day long. I’ll tell you what I told them. I will probably plan a few trips, pay off a few bills, organize my drawers and closets, spend time with my grandchildren and take care of myself for a change. I will be more diligent about dentist appointments, vision check-ups, hearing aide replacements, physicals that I have put off, massages that I only dreamed about and a much-needed pedicure! I plan of finishing two of my novels and have been discussing with a publisher about combining five of my short stories into one book. I love that idea.  I can’t wait to get two of my “WIP’s” into your hands and on the shelves of the bookstores. (WIP is works-in-progress).

Before you know it, I’ll be itching to go back to work. Doing something that is stress-free, easy and fun. I’m not ready to stop working, but I AM ready for something new.

I have to admit, it feels good to know that I was blessed with the opportunity to work for such a wonderful company for so many years. Liberty Mutual was with me through some very important and life-changing moments of my life. Here’s a heartfelt “thank you” to them.

I may not be able to see what’s around the next curve in the road, but I am confident that whatever it is, it will be great!

Just thinking out loud,

P

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Posted in Completed Stories

Madison’s Plans

 

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

Chapter One

As the young teenage girl sat at her desk staring out the large window, she felt confident that she was ready to take her final exams. Tomorrow were the two big ones, which she had studied night and day for months so she would get a qualifying GPA and have a chance a good college. She had plans for her life and she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way from achieving them. She couldn’t wait to get out on her own and start seeing her dreams become a reality. But first, she had to have good enough scores on her tests to keep her grade point where it needed to be. She had done everything she knew to do, and she was ready. Her mom would be happy she was going out. She always reminded Madison that no one liked a reclusive nerd. That hurt, but not enough for Madison to change her plan. To get out of this town, go to college and make something of herself. She knew there had to be more to life than this.

“Mad’s, the phone is for you,” her little brother yelled outside her door. “It’s Winston,” he added a goofy tone, which he knew would irritate her. “Two little lovers, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G…” he sang down the hall.

“Shut up, you little twerp. You’ll wake mom up,” Madison said as she walked down the staircase and grabbed the old fashioned wall phone from her little brother, “Hello? Who’s this?” Madison still wasn’t comfortable talking to boys on the phone. Her friends couldn’t believe that she was a senior in High School and still had never gone out on a date, much less had the time to. Her world was centered around her studies and her PLAN. Everything else would have to wait.

“It’s Winston, but you already knew that. Hey, there’s a bunch of us going ice skating tonight. Just wondered if you could take a break away from the books and have a few hours of fun. Lord knows you deserve it. We’re meeting at 7:00 p.m. If you can get a ride here, Victoria said she’d give you a ride home,” the young man paused, waiting for a response.

“Okay. I suppose I could use some relaxation before the testing tomorrow, but I can’t stay late. I need to get my sleep so I’m rested and ready,” Madison cringed when she heard herself talk. She felt awkward because she had never really been a part of the social scene at school. Winston and Madison had been in every single class together since 2nd grade. She never really thought about him one way or another. He had just always been there. Spelling bee competitions in elementary and junior high, then the debate team in high school. He was one of the smartest boys she knew. They were both high achievers and more competitors than anything else. Madison felt comfortable around him, and that was saying a lot.  Madison had been playing the flute in school since 4th grad and Winston was right there at every concert playing his clarinet.

“Cool, I’ll see you there,” Winston said with an unusual amount of excitement in his voice and Madison hung the gold colored phone back on the wall. Staring at that phone, Madison was pretty certain they were the only family in town that still had the old land-line wall phone with an actual cord. She smiled and headed for the kitchen.

Madison knew her mom would still be passed out on the couch, so she started fixing her little brother some macaroni and cheese. The celery sticks were cut, washed and set on a plate, along with carrots, sliced apples, and grapes. Two glasses of milk topped off the simple dinner. Todd lifted the lid on the pot and took a whiff. “Yummy, that smells good. When can we eat?”

“Just as soon as you wash your hands and face and set the table. Bowls, silverware and napkins, okay? I cooked, so you set it up and clean it up like dad always says.”

Madison stirred the mac and cheese one more time and turned the burner off. As a last minute thought, she grabbed a couple slices of bread and butter.  Todd was a growing boy and hungry all the time. She hoped this would hold him until breakfast. Madison loved her little brother. At times she felt more like a mom than a sister, but that was okay. The only thing that worried her about her great PLAN, was leaving Todd here alone. She wondered who would help him with his school work, and get him to soccer practice. Make certain he showered and ate balanced meals. Her dad worked so much and was rarely home. When he was, he did a good job at being the best he could be to his little family. Her mom loved them, she just battled depression, and after she got home from work, she drank, watched tv and fell asleep every night on the couch. Madison didn’t hate her for it, but she felt sad for her. After her mom’s sister died the year before, she had never fully recovered. Then she had a miscarriage and that seemed to push her over the edge. Madison had watched as her dad took her mom to counseling for months afterward. Finally, her mom just said, “no more.”

“Okay, Todster…I’m going to the ice rink tonight with some of the kids from school. I’ll be gone just a couple hours. You did really well on your homework so you can watch one show on tv after you brush your teeth and put your pj’s on. You need to have lights out no later than 8:30. Got it? I’ll come in and pray with you after I get home. Now get these dishes cleaned up and don’t forget to wipe down the table. You good?” Madison asked the brown-eyed, sandy blonde headed 8-year-old standing in front of her. “And NO computer games. It’s a school night and you know how dad feels about that. Trust me, I’ll know if you do or not. So don’t.” She ruffled his hair and kissed his forehead. “Love you.”

Madison left a note on the refrigerator for her dad in case he got home before she did.

“Went to the ice rink with some friends. Be back early. Big exams tomorrow. Love M.” 

Chapter Two – The Ice Rink  

“Come on, just one more lap around the ice. Please?” Winston grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the edge where she was getting ready to get off the ice.

“I’ll race you. I’ll make it interesting and bet a cup of hot chocolate. Loser pays. Come on Einstein…I know you’re always up for a challenge,” Winston wouldn’t let go until she agreed, so she did. He could be very stubborn. Plus, she was freezing, so the quicker she agreed to the race, the sooner she could get home.

“Ha, you owe me a hot chocolate,” Winston huffed as they came to a skidding stop. As far as Madison could tell it was a tie, but she didn’t have the energy to argue.

“Fine, here’s $5. Go get your hot chocolate. I’m going to find Victoria and let her know I’m ready to go,” Madison sat down to pull off her skates.

“Oh no, you don’t. You have to at least sit with me while I drink it. I’m not doing this alone, Madison Raine Torrance. It won’t take long. What’s the rush?” Winston said as he bent over to untie his laces.

“I need my sleep. That’s what the rush is. I want to be at my best when I take my exams tomorrow. You know how important they are to me,” Madison said.

“Yes, I do. You’ve been planning this since you were 7 years old. How could I forget? It’s still early and I promise you’ll get your 8 hours of sleep,” Winston said with a wink.

“You are the most stubborn guy, Winston Campbell. Fine. 5 minutes.”

As they sat on the bench sipping their hot chocolate, Madison realized she didn’t know very much about this guy sitting next to her. She found him slightly interesting and someone she might enjoy getting to know better, but now wasn’t the time. She had to stay focused. They made small talk, then stood and threw their paper cups in the trash.

“Have you seen Victoria?” Madison asked.

“Nope. I saw her with Gabe making out in the back, but that was an hour ago,” Winston said.

“Ewww, that’s not a pleasant picture. Well, I need to find her. She said she’d give me a ride home. If you see her, tell her I’m waiting by the front door.”

Twenty minutes later, Madison came to the conclusion that Victoria was nowhere to be found. Neither was her boyfriend, Gabe. One of the girls who worked the skate-rental counter said that she had seen Victoria leave with Gabe in his pickup truck. Standing in the dirt parking lot, Madison saw Victoria’s car still parked. Now what? Most of the kids were heading out or going to the local diner for milkshakes, which was in the opposite direction of home.

“Can I borrow your phone to make a quick call,” Madison asked Ben, the manager of the rink.

“Sure, just dial 9 first,” he shouted over the loud music booming through the stereo system.

“Come on mom, pick up the phone!” she mumbled under her breath as she let the phone ring at least 20 times. Leaving a message, she tried her dad next.

“Hi honey, everything okay?” he answered on the third ring.

“I’m in a bit of a pickle dad. I’m at the ice skating rink, and I want to get home and my ride is nowhere to be found. She’s out with Gabe somewhere. Everyone else is either gone or headed over to Lucy’s Diner, which is out of the way. Can you come to get me?” Madison asked. “Sweetheart, I’m still at the wedding reception. It got started late and my catering team is just now getting the second course out. I can’t leave. Two guys called off sick tonight, so we’re short. Did you try your mom?” he asked.

“Of course. What do you think happened? She’s passed out on the couch and I can’t get her to answer the phone. Todd is already asleep, and we all know he can sleep through a freight train. Don’t worry about it, I’ll figure it out. It’s only about 3-4 miles. I can walk.” Madison spoke more confidently than she felt.

“Are you sure that’s your only option? Let me see what I can do. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try. If I can’t come to get you, I’ll try to see if someone else can. Keep your phone on,” he said.

“I don’t have my cell with me. It was dead so I just left it at home. I didn’t think I’d need it. I had a plan, dad!” Madison felt tendrils of panic start to creep up her neck.

“Of course you did sweetheart. Listen to me, you are one of the smartest, most level headed girls I know. You know what they say about the best-laid plans? They often go awry. Stay focused Madison. Adjust to the situation. You’ll figure it out. Just be safe and call me when you get home. I love you girl. Got to get back to the reception.”

“Love you too dad,” Madison said with a sigh. She had a bad feeling that things were not going to turn out the way she hoped.

Chapter Three – The Long Walk Home

Pushing the door open, she went back into the rink and looked for Winston. He found her before she found him.

“Hey, what are you still doing here? I thought you had already left, you okay?” Winston asked.

“No, I’m not okay. Victoria left with Gabe and hasn’t been back. Her car is still here, but who knows when she’ll show up. My options are finding a ride with someone else, catching the bus or walking,” Madison plopped down on the bench and sighed.

“Well, you know if I had a car, I’d be happy to take you home, but I walked,” Winston said as he sat down next to her.

“Of course you did. That makes perfect sense since you live an entire two blocks from here.” She snapped. “Sorry, I’m not mad at you. Just frustrated. I had a plan A and B. How could this happen?”

Winston looked at her with a grin on his face and raised an eyebrow and laughed.  “Seriously? You’re laughing at me?” Madison punched him in the arm.

“Ow, that hurt. When did you get so strong? You been working out Torrance? I’m not laughing at you, just laughing because you are always planning everything down to the tee. For the most part, your plans work. But sometimes life doesn’t work exactly the way we want. You got to be flexible Mads,” Winston said with a grin.

“You sound like my dad. I need a solution Campbell, not a psychology lesson,” she looked him square in the eyes.

“Fair enough. We could walk to my house and I could drive you home. Simple, direct and problem solved. Just let me call home first to make sure the car is available. It’s Friday night and my sister may have borrowed it. It stinks to be a one-car family of 5,” Winston picked up his cell and dialed.

After hanging up, he shook his head and asked, “So it looks like we’re going to need a plan C.”

“I’ve been calculating how long it would take me to walk home. An average of 6000 steps equals around 3 miles. The average person walks about 1 mile in 15-20 minutes so it would take me an hour to walk home. That’s not bad. I should get going now,” Madison said more to herself than Winston.

“Hold on there, Einstein. You can’t walk home by yourself. It’s dark and you have to go right through a really scary part of town. I’ll walk with you. I have a flashlight and my phone is charged up 50%. Just let me call my dad and I’ll let him know the situation. He can come and pick me up when Marley gets home from her movie with her friends.”

“That actually sounds like a good plan, Winston, thanks. You call and I’m going to run to the restroom before we leave,” Madison grabbed her backpack and went down the hall towards the girl’s bathroom. She never liked this hall. Dark walls, low lighting, narrow walkway, and a weird smell. The door was locked and Madison knocked. “I’ll be right out, give me a minute,” a voice shouted.

“No problem,” Madison said as she switched her backpack to the other shoulder and leaned against the black painted wall. If she remembered correctly, at the end of the hall, there was a door that went out to where the Zamboni was kept. She always had a secret dream of running a Zamboni along the ice rink to clean up all the scratches and slush and make the ice clean and shiny again. It was a strange wish, but it was her wish.

Suddenly the Zamboni room door opened and the manager’s son Caleb, who had been away at college stepped out and headed down the hall. Madison hadn’t seen him in four years or more. She had heard rumors that he had to drop out of school in his last year to come home and help out when his mom got sick. He looked different. His hair was long and slicked back in a “man-bun.” His arms had tattoos and he had a strange looking ring that was pierced through his nostril. When his eyes caught Madison’s, he looked at her in a way that made her skin crawl. Madison was all too familiar with what it looked like to be drunk and this wasn’t the situation. Madison would be her last $5 bill on the fact that Caleb was high as a kite.

“Caleb? Is that you? Are you okay?” she asked, truly concerned.

“What do you care? Mind your own business, girly,” he wiped his nose and turned to continue walking.

“It’s Madison. Madison Torrance. Your sister babysat my little brother, Todd. My dad and I went to your football games at the high school. My dad always said you were gifted and would probably play pro one day. I knew you had been back for your mom when she got sick, but I didn’t realize you decided to stay. I’m sorry, by the way, for your mom’s passing. My mom and dad went to the funeral. I wanted to be there, but someone had to stay with Todd,” she asked.

“Madison Torrance! You still here in this dump of a town? You were just starting High School the last time I saw you. The girl with the big plans! How’s that working out for you? Mind your own business Torrance, you’re better off that way. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan, so just leave it at that.” He said as he walked past her and out the door into the parking lot. For some reason that made Madison sad. She wasn’t certain how one of the most up-and-coming young athletes, with scholarships from five different universities, could end up back here with none of his dreams fulfilled. That was never going to happen to her. More determined than ever, Madison walked out the front door and saw Winston ready for the long walk home.

Chapter Four – Plan C 

The two determined young high school seniors had been walking in silence for almost thirty minutes before Madison spoke up. “What are you thinking about?”

“Just putting one foot in front of the other and keeping an eye out for any kidnappers,” Winston said cryptically. “Well, I’m perfectly at ease. You want to know why? I’ll tell you anyway. I’m practicing my SAT and ACT questions in my head. I wish I had my flash cards with me,” Madison said as her tennis shoes slapped the pavement.

“You are one very unique person, Madison Torrance,” Winston chimed in. “I don’t know of a single 17 ½-year-old girl who is as excited of taking these exams, as you are. You act as if it’s the only thing that’s going to help you achieve your dream. I think you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. Don’t you worry that you’re setting yourself up for failure? And before you bite my head off for saying that, I’m just stating that there is so much more in you than I think you realize. There’s not just ONE plan, Madison.” Winston glanced at her in hopes that she wouldn’t punch him again.

“Well for me, there is. This is it, Winston. If I don’t get into a good college, I will be stuck here forever. My family isn’t rich and can’t pay for me to go to any college I want. It’s always been my grades that were going to open those doors. I just want something better, so I can make them proud and then I can help my dad open that restaurant that he’s been dreaming of since he was a teenager at his first job-making pizzas. If I’m making good money in a career I love, then I can buy mom and dad a nicer home, better car, and Todd will have a childhood and opportunities that he normally wouldn’t have. My mom could get the help she needs. The cost of doctors and medicine wouldn’t be a problem. Don’t you see? It’s up to me. They need me, and I can’t do that if I stay here working at the local coffee shop,” Madison felt like she was going to burst into tears, but she got a hold of herself because she knew that wouldn’t be productive.

“Hey there, it’s okay. I had no idea you were putting so much pressure on yourself about accomplishing this huge task. Madison, trust me on this. You are smart. You can and I believe you will accomplish something great. Whatever it is, you’ll do well. I just don’t think your family is expecting any of that from you. From everything I have learned about you and your family over the years, is that they love you. Just like you are. They’re proud of you right now. Right, where you’re at, here and now. This pressure you’re putting on yourself isn’t healthy. I know how much you want to go to college and get a good job. I know you want out of this “podunk” town, as you call it. And that’s fine. But also remember that if everyone left this town, there wouldn’t be any jobs, businesses, or any great diners where you can get the best homemade pies and burgers or our favorite milkshakes. We have a lot of great memories here. It hasn’t been all bad. Right?” Winston jabbed her with his elbow.

“I suppose. But now that I’m almost done with high school, I need to move on to the next phase of my plan. I at least have to try, Winston. Maybe by the time I graduate from college and become the top journalist for the Washington Post making awesome money, I’ll want to keep it all for myself and be selfish and snooty. Who knows? Maybe I’ll forget about everything and everybody here and start a brand new life.” It was silent between them for a good five minutes.

“Nothing to say about that, Campbell?” Madison asked.

“Hey, it’s your life Torrance. We all make choices. We all reap the consequences. Some good some bad. The older we get, the more serious the choices. I don’t believe for a second that you could ever turn snooty and selfish. Now rich? That’s a possibility. As far as forgetting everybody here, well, I really hope that never happens. I know I could never forget you,” there was a little awkward pause between them.

“I’m sorry, who are you and what are you doing walking down this dark street with me?” Madison stopped and looked at him with a serious face. Then she burst out laughing and punched him in the chest. “Oh wait, I remember now. You’re the guy who beat me in the debate contest in our Freshman year. And the same one who dumped kool-aide all over me in the 4th grade just before our school play, where I played sheep #3. Yes, I think it’s all coming back to me.” Madison had stopped walking and was standing with her hands on her hips looking up at Winston.

“Now look who’s making fun. I’m serious Mads. If anyone can get out of this town, it’s you. You’ll make us all proud. Just please don’t forget about us. That’s all I’m saying.”

Madison stood face to face with the young man that had been in every class with her since the third grade. She had never thought of him as anything other than a friend. Until now. She may have known him since they were children, and lived in the same town and went to the same church, but she had never really felt anything beyond that until now. Was he really saying he’d miss her? When he said not to forget him, was he really saying something else? Madison had never been a flirty type of girl. She never had a boyfriend, nor did she feel like she needed one. One thing she was sure about right now, is that she was feeling something she wasn’t very familiar with and it bothered her.

“Forget about US or forget about YOU?” Madison asked him.

“Both,” he said sincerely and without explanation.

“So…you know all about my plans, but what about yours? You’re smart too, and I know you’ve always wanted to design jets. I remember the hours you use to spend making model airplanes. Do you still do it?” Madison and Winston had started walking again.

“Not as much as I’d like. Not enough time, anymore. And yes, to answer your question. I have plans. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to anyone about it yet. I haven’t even told my parents. You have to promise not to say anything to anyone,” Winston said with warning. “Why do I feel like you’re about to ask me to “pinky-swear”?” Madison chuckled.

“Of course, I won’t say anything. I feel honored that you’d share it with me. Must be pretty serious. Tell me. My lips are sealed,” Madison turned to face him as she walked backward across the grass in the dimly lit park.

“Like you, my parents can’t afford to pay for college. Even though my grades are good, and I could get into a good school, I was too late for applying for scholarships. That’s all on me. So, I was trying to think of another way I can get my college education, and I enlisted in the Army. I leave two weeks after graduation. Once I finish my four years, they’ll pay my entire tuition for college. You can close your mouth now,” Winston shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and waited.

“Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Your parents are going to freak out. Talk about a big decision, Winston. And I was just going to leave town and never come back! Listen…It’s just taking a minute for me to wrap my head around this. You have always been strong. Maybe not a super athlete, but I know you work out, and run every day. Do you think you’re up for this? Army boot camp isn’t easy. My uncle is a Marine and I remember hearing his stories. Scary stuff. But I will tell you, that every single person in my family knows now that it was the best decision he ever made. Look, I know you are level headed and not one to make rash decisions, so it’s obvious you’ve thought this through. I guess the next step is to tell your parents. They love you, and I am pretty positive they’ll support you. So you ship out two weeks after graduation? Will we see each other again after that? Just wondering, you know,” Madison was starting to feel that strange feeling again in the pit of her stomach.

“Thanks! So you think I’m going to die while being in the Army? You’re just a boatload of encouragement Torrance. I don’t know if we’ll see each other again, but maybe we could write or skype, if you wanted to that is,” Winston said. His voice tinged with hope.

“Yes, of course, I’d like that. Who knows where I’ll be, but let’s make a promise that over the next four years, we stay in contact. When your tour is up and I graduate from college, we’ll meet up somewhere. I’d like that,” Madison said with a feeling of relief in her voice.

“Careful there Mads. You really should turn around. Walking backward can get you hurt. Watch it!” Winston grabbed her arm and kept her from stepping into the small lake that was in the middle of the park.

“Oops, I guess you’re right, Superman! So, we have a plan! I am so excited. You know how I love plans. Take these exams tomorrow; graduate from high school in six months; go to college for four years; stay in contact with you and meet for coffee after graduating from college.”

“Wow…You’re not kidding you love plans! I got to say, Torrance, it sounds really nice. I’m just not sure I want coffee after not seeing you for four years. Maybe we could do something that actually included food? You really think you’ll stay in contact and want to take the time to meet somewhere in this world and eat a meal together? What’s to guarantee we won’t forget about each other the minute you get to college and I get to the Middle East?” Winston said with all teasing set aside.

“I don’t know, Campbell. If you come up with a good way for neither of us to forget each other, I’m all ears,” Madison said with a twinkle in her eye.

“Guess what Torrance, we’re here!”

“What? Already? That didn’t take long at all. Home sweet home. I’m thirsty, how about you?” Madison was trying to delay his leaving. Even just for a few extra minutes. She hadn’t realized how much she enjoyed his company and wasn’t quite ready for him to leave.

“Sure some water sounds great. I’m just going to call my dad and use your restroom if you don’t mind,”

“Down the hall to the left,” Madison pointed.

Checking in on her little brother, she picked up the blankets he had kicked off the bed and gently covered him. Kissing his forehead she carefully slid the comic book out of his hands and smiled as she closed his door.

“Dad, you’re home! How was the catering gig? You look tired,” Madison hugged his neck and looked into his tired eyes.

“I’m tired but good. The reception went very well, they were impressed with everything. I’m so happy you’re home safe. I was so worried,” he kissed her forehead.

“I’m safe and sound, dad. Winston ended up walking me home. He’s just cleaning up in the restroom. His dad is coming to pick him up,” Madison smiled.

“Winston Campbell? That was nice of him to do that. Did he offer on his own or did you have to beg and bribe?” he asked with a chuckle.

“Dad! No, I didn’t even have to ask. He offered on his own, and trust me, it made the long walk home, much more interesting and a lot less scary,” she reached in the refrigerator for two bottles of water.

“Really? Hmmm, interesting. Winston is a good guy. His dad raised him right,” her dad said.

“So I’m a good guy? Hi Mr. Torrance, how was your wedding reception?” Winston walked into the kitchen.

“Hi, Winston. Yes, you are a good guy. You protected my daughter without any bribery. That’s hard to find nowadays. This is one thankful father,” he stuck his hand out to shake the young man’s.

“It was my pleasure. It actually went by faster than we anticipated,” Winston said.

“Hmmm, that’s what she said. The good company tends to do that. Were you able to get ahold of your dad? If not, I’d be happy to drive you home. It’s the least I can do for walking Madison home,” Mr. Torrance said.

“That’s okay, my dad’s on his way. He’ll be here in a few minutes, but thanks,” Winston smiled. “Where did Madison go?” He asked.

“She’s checking on her mom, she’ll be right out. Take a seat,” the older man pointed to a chair. “So did Madison ply you with all of her plans she has? Lord knows she loves talking about “the Plan.”

“Madison has had plans since we were in Mrs. McClain’s third-grade class. She’s trying very hard to fulfill them too. If anyone can, she will. She’s smart and loves her family. You’re very blessed,” Winston was watching the other room waiting to see Madison again.

The older man noticed everything about this young man. Winston wasn’t going to leave until he saw Mads again. Jack Torrance smiled fondly.

“There she is! Everything okay on that end of the house?” Jack asked his daughter.

“Yep, all is well. How about you two? Do you guys want a sandwich or some chips and salsa? I can fix something,” she asked, hoping to delay when Winston would leave.

“No honey, but thanks. I’m exhausted. Winston’s dad is on his way, so I’m going to say goodnight and catch some much-needed sleep. Winston, thank you,” Jack shook Winston’s hand and left the room.

“Madison, come sit down. I don’t want anything to eat. Just sit for a minute before my dad gets here. I know your feet have to be tired,” Winston pushed out the chair for her to sit.

“Why do I feel like this is goodbye? I almost wish you hadn’t said anything about the Army. Now all I can think about is when you leave. I know we still have six months, but now that your plans have been put out there in the universe, six months isn’t very long,” Madison was surprised she verbalized all of that out loud.

“So are you admitting that you’re going to miss me and that you wish we had more time before going our separate ways? I just want to make sure I’m hearing you clearly?” Winston smiled at her with a quirky look.

“Don’t tease me, Winston Campbell. This is all new to me, and it’s taken me by surprise too. I just need to focus on my plan and the fact that we still have six months. I just got to get through tomorrow. Do you still pray?” she asked.

“What? Uh, yes. Why do you ask?” Winston looked at her strangely.

“Well, I see you pray before eating lunch every day at school, and of course I see you in church, but I just didn’t know if you prayed for other things besides food and ritual? Anyway, if you do, please pray for me tomorrow. You know how much I want to pass and do well on those exams,” Madison looked a bit embarrassed.

“Yes, I pray for other things besides food and to keep a ritual. And yes, I will pray for you tomorrow. It’s all going to work out, Madison.” Winston saw his dad’s car lights pull into the driveway and got up to take his glass to the sink.

“You don’t know that for sure, Winston,” Madison said.

“You’re right, I don’t know that for sure. But one thing I do know is that you’ve studied faithfully. You’ve prepared and you’ve done everything humanly possible. Now just relax. Do your best and trust that God has it all in control. And that is one thing I am sure of,” Winston walked towards the front door.

“Wait. Will I see you on Monday?” Madison asked.

“Of course. I’ve been there since third grade. I’m not going anywhere,” Winston placed his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “You’ve got this, Madison. Here’s to Plan A.”

As he walked down the stone path to the car waiting for him, Madison realized how pleasantly surprised she was at how this night ended. The day had turned out nothing like she planned. As she thought about it, she sighed and smiled. Winston was right. Plans don’t always turn out the way you expect them to. Thank goodness there are 26 letters in the alphabet. Lord knows she would probably have need of all of them before this journey was done. Turning out the porch light she realized that making adjustments may not be as hard as she thought.

Posted in Just thinking out loud

Changes

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Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

People say “change is good.” Change CAN be good, but it can also be terrifying. Especially for someone who has enjoyed something (or someone) for a long period of time. Whether it’s your spouse, your mom or dad, sibling or loyal pet. When change comes, it can rock your foundation; stir up your confidence or break your heart.

The good side of “change” is when you are stuck and need something different. Sometimes all we need is to be pushed out of the nest, so to speak. We get comfortable. Too comfortable, and forget that there is an entire world out there to explore. No, I’m not necessarily talking about traveling the world or backpacking the Himalayans! It could be as simple as taking an art class; joining a writers group; finding great hiking places in your area and doing THAT on your day off instead of binging on Talenti Ice Cream and reading the latest novel of your favorite author. Okay, I am so guilty of that one. When you work hard all week and only have one day off (other than Sunday, which really isn’t a day off because we’re busy going to church), hiking probably won’t be my first choice. I secretly envy my friends that take all of these amazing photos of there treks up and down mountains and canyons. I hiked down the Grand Canyon once in my life, and I’m perfectly happy to be able to tell that story. I was 16 years old, so it was a rush. A blast. A fantastic moment in my youth. At 60, trying that?? I don’t think so. I love the GC, but I would rather stand and look at it while sipping my hot coffee, than to hike down it. Just sayin!

Back to my topic…Change. For me, when change happens suddenly, without thought or preparation, it’s scary. Very scary. My dad taught me that when change comes, you must learn to adjust. Be flexible. As a Christian, change is a bit easier, simply because while we are grieving or sweating bullets or our heart is racing with a lack of confidence, we have someone we can turn to and know without a doubt, that He is in control. Faith in God is a powerful gift. Does it remove all feelings of doubt and fear? No. At least not for me. But I have learned through my 60 years of life, that fear is not always a bad thing. If we didn’t experience fear, we’d never understand peace. If we never had changes in our life, we would never comprehend how nice it is to have a faithful spouse; a steady job; a loyal dog; a healthy body or a good running car. The winds of change can swipe each of those away from us, at any time. The reactions of change are vast and various. Grief and sadness, heartbroken and alone, financially frantic or being awakened to your mortality.

I found out yesterday that a friend of mine lost her dad. It was sudden. No unexpected, but sudden, none the less. He was loved by so many. The memories I have of the friendship between our families just flooded my mind all day. The void will be great; the change for my friend, her siblings, and children will be immense. The comfort of knowing we will see him again is something that only a Christian can truly appreciate. It doesn’t lessen the sadness we feel on this side of heaven. For all of those that have experienced the loss of a loved one, you know that the sun still rises and sets, the alarm still goes off, the school bus still shows up, the garbage still has to be dumped and bills keep coming due. We still have to live with the loss, until that reuniting in heaven takes place. Whether its a few days, months or years down the road, we still have to find a way to make peace with how we choose to live, today. Sounds easy? Trust me, it’s not. Even with all of the faith, hope and excitement for what’s to come, it’s still exhausting. No matter how long it’s been. We lean on Jesus. We grab ahold of friendships and family and manage to get through one day. Then we do it again the next day and the next.

Changes…I have been facing a lot of them lately. In January I had my very first surgery – my gallbladder! It made me realize how blessed I am that God has given me 60 years without too many health problems. My health issues have been minimal in comparison to so many.  My niece, Harmony. My great nephew, Drake. Both have been fighting life and death situations for so long. Thank God for the power of prayer! God is still in the healing business and we have seen His grace displayed over and over again.

Another change for me this year has been turning 60. For the first time in my life, I started feeling my mortality. Fifty didn’t bother me at all, but there’s just something about 60 that had me feeling a little like time was speeding up at a rate that was not acceptable to me. Everything seems to be happening faster than usual. Maybe it’s just that my mind and body are moving a little slower. Either way, it’s a bit disconcerting.

In March, I crossed the 20-year mark at my job. Every time I say that out loud, it really is amazing. Twenty years at the same job. Day in and day out. As many of you know, I’ve been wanting to make a change in that area of my life. I prayed about it and made the decision to retire from Liberty Mutual, effective June 1st. As I have been working with my Retirement Coordinator, getting all my ducks in order, I have been having scary dreams at night and my heart rate has been a little shaky. She assured me that for someone who has been working since they were 16, this is not unusual. You have no idea how scary it’s been, yet also very exciting. The closer I get to that date, I am starting to figure out what I’m going to do after retirement. The only things I could think of were to finish my book and get it published and in the marketplace. I want to take a few road trips and maybe a European vacation. Organizing my closet is a big item I want to accomplish. Honestly, I have been looking around at other “easy-fun” jobs that I would enjoy doing to keep me busy and to pay for the exorbitant price of health insurance that I’m going to be paying for myself starting June 1st. I actually have a few interviews over the next month or two. Retirement from my job doesn’t mean I’m ready to hang up my boots just yet. I’m still young enough and feel I have a lot to bring to the table, still. But for now, I’m actually really looking forward to this new chapter in my life. It’s a huge change in my life, and even though I have no idea what the future holds, I am certain of one thing. I know who does! Whatever comes during this adventure, I will trust in Him.

Changes – My boss use to tell me that the only certainty in life, is that things change. So get happy and find a way to adjust.

The job I have done for the last 20 years, has taught me about adjusting. When you take 70-80 calls a day from different backgrounds and walks of life, it teaches you to adjust your thinking and attitude frequently. One call could be the elderly lady who lives alone with her cats and just needs to talk to someone because she’s worried. The next might be the 30 something up and coming do-gooder who has you on speaker phone while he’s driving 80 mph down the road, trying to read the VIN of the new vehicle he just purchased. He just wants the transaction to be fast, accurate and did I mention, FAST?

People are all unique and interesting. It just depends what kind of eyes you’re looking through. So thank you Liberty Mutual. The years have been good and the changes in my life have been positive.

Life is moving forward…rapidly. So keep holding on. Keep fighting for what’s right. Be willing to adjust your heart. Do the best you can with the information you’ve been given and breathe, because more change is coming!

Here’s to the bend in the road…

P

 

 

 

 

Posted in Completed Stories

On The Way to a Wedding

This was one of my writing course lessons this week. A short story that has to do with the main character needing to be somewhere at a certain time, and all of the setbacks and events that keep the character from arriving. It was fun to write. Hope you enjoy…

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Glancing at his watch for the hundredth time in less than five minutes, Spencer hoped he could leave the ER in plenty of time to pick up his tux and make it to the church in time. He was getting married today. He still couldn’t believe his luck. He knew he was a catch in some people’s eyes. His mom’s mainly, but at 40, he knew his dreams of a wife and family were quickly vanishing. His mom and dad always said if he would just put more effort into dating and meeting people, he would find someone to share his life with. As the head doctor of the ER at Boston Memorial, Spence just didn’t have time to “date.” He thought he might meet someone that came into his ER or even another doctor or nurse that went to the same charity events that he was forced to go to. His plus one for the last several years had been one of his sisters. How lame is that?

All of that changed about a year ago. Now he was only a few hours away from pledging his faithfulness and love to the most important person in his life. Rachelle. She took him by surprise. Swept him off his feet and he fell hard. After six months of courting, he proposed. Spence actually knew within a few weeks that she was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but he wanted to give her a chance to figure out the same thing.

As he finished stitching up the cute little curly-haired seven-year-old boy sitting on the edge of the gurney, Spence was answering some of his questions.

“Why do you wear a white coat?”

“Did you have to take sewing lessons? My mom sews my pants and shirts when I tear them.”

“Are you gonna give me a shot? I’m not afraid cuz I’m seven.”

“Spock was trying to protect me. That’s why he attacked that cat. But the cat’s claw got my arm first. I hope Spock is okay.”

Spence wondered who Spock was, then it hit him that he was the little guys’ pet and friend. He was really worried. Wrapping up the stitch work to keep it clean for a couple of days, he pulled out the needle for a tetanus shot. The boy looked at it with wide eyes. Spence felt bad and wished someone would have come up with a way for children to drink their injections!

“It’s okay Doctor Jackson. I’m not scared.”

“Well, that’s good because when I was your age, I was terrified of needles. I cried. If there were any other way to make certain that cat didn’t have nasty germs that could make you sick, wouldn’t give you this shot. But this is the only way to make sure you stay healthy and strong. Eyes open or shut?”

“Open doc. If I close them, then the surprise would scare me.”

“Smart man. I will make it quick and you shouldn’t feel more than a prick or pinch.”

As Spence was talking, he was swabbing the arm with alcohol and a little analgesic to help numb the area for just a few seconds.

“All done! You didn’t even flinch. I’m impressed.”

“What? I didn’t feel anything or even see it. Are you sure you gave me the shot doc?”

Spence ruffled the golden curls and lifted him off the table and set him on his feet. The high top Converse shoes brought back so many memories for Spence. He had played basketball all through junior high and high school, wearing his favorite Converse high tops! His parents didn’t have a lot of money, so duct tape became a common thing to see on his Converse when they started falling apart.

As the boy waived, Spencer looked at the clock on the wall. He was shocked to see that he now only had 45 minutes to get to the church in time. Heart racing, he ran down the hall to the locker room. Changing into his jeans, t-shirt, and jacket, he grabbed his backpack and started for the nurse’s station.

“I thought you had left an hour ago. Dr. Jackson, you’re running late. You know that Rachelle is going to be stressing right now. That woman is early for everything. Until you met her, you were late for everything. You should call her,” Evelyn the charge nurse advised him.

“Sorry, you got the short straw for tonight’s shift Eve.”

“Well, take lots of pictures. Now go get married. Hurry.”

After picking up his tux, he rushed down the highway towards the chapel. With music blasting through his amazing speaker system, his beeper went off. Glancing at it, he saw it was a 911 beep. Weren’t they all? He knew the doctors on call for tonight and was feeling confident that they could handle anything that came there way. He was off for the next seven glorious days for his honeymoon to Costa Rica.

His cell phone started ringing. Pushing the button on the steering wheel to put the call through, he answered, “This is Dr. Jackson. This better be an emergency of unusual proportion because I’m on my way to the chapel to get married. What’s going on?”

“Spence, this is Evelyn. We just got a call from the Boston Fire Department. They are on their way in with three ambos. The bridge up on Highway 101 collapsed. We have dozens of injuries. One of the patients said something about a couple of limos that he saw pass him, just before they got on the bridge. Isn’t your chapel on that same road?”

Spence’s heart skipped a beat when he stopped to think if anyone would be on that road, and he quickly pulled over. “Gotta go, Eve, I’m calling Rach right now. I’ll keep you posted.”

Pushing the button for Rachelle’s cell, he waited. And waited. “Hi, this is Rach. I’m doing something important, but I’ll get back to you when I can.”

Spencer heard the beep and left a panicked message to have her call him asap. The gravel peeled away from his tires as he sped out to the highway. He could see the firetrucks and police lights at least a mile before he even reached the bridge. Traffic was at a gridlock.

Jumping out of the car he ran with just his keys towards the disaster that waited ahead. Spence was very familiar with traumatic events. He faced them every single day. Yes, he was the doctor and everyone that came in were the wounded, victims of myriad different scenarios.

There were only 20 minutes left until the wedding was supposed to start. Spence wasn’t certain how everything was going to play out, but he was determined to make it to the church and marry Rachelle, come hell or high water. He was about to find out just how complicated, if not impossible, that was going to be. He tried Rachelle’s cell phone again and it went straight to voicemail.

“Officer, can you tell me what happened? I’m a doctor. I’m also on my way to my wedding on the other side of that bridge. My fiancé would really appreciate it if I showed up. Is there anything you can do to make that happen?” Spence tried to make his voice sound confident rather than terrified.

“I’m sorry sir, but no one is getting to the other side. The bridge is completely collapsed and the river’s water is high and rising due to the recent rains. We’re working on rescue and recovery right now. If you’re a doctor, I’ll let you through so you can help out. Trust me, they’ll need it. Do you work out of Boston Memorial, because all the other hospitals are on the other side of that bridge? There were no cars on that side when the bridge collapsed, only from this side, crossing. Boston FD is trying to clear a way for paramedics and ambos to get the bodies out. Some of the cars are in the water and going under fast. I gotta go, but please, we could use your help.” The officer grabbed a bag out of his trunk and started running towards the site. Spencer could do no less and started sprinting right behind him. He took an oath, and he would do everything possible to help the wounded. They needed him now. He made a vow to Rachelle also, but he knew she’d be there when this was done. They had their entire lives in front of them. The ones out there, either casualties or fatalities, didn’t. They needed him more.

The scene in front of him looked like a movie about a catastrophic event. Taking a deep breath he ran to the nearest ambulance and what looked like a triage area and asked the haggard looking paramedic, “what can I do to help. I’m Dr. Spencer Jackson from Boston Memorial?”

“Oh thank God. Come over here. This is the triage area, Boston FP is bringing in the wounded. We are tagging them according to priority, then getting them stable and the ambos are taking them to Memorial.”

“How many so far?” Spence asked.

“I quit counting after the first 25. I just heard that there are two limos with at least 8 people in each, that they’re having a hard time getting to. I guess it might be a wedding party or prom.”

Spence’s body stopped cold. He knew that Rachelle and her bridal party were using one limo, and they had talked about getting a second one for the parents and siblings. Oh God…please don’t let it be theirs.

“Hey, why are you in a tux? I thought you were a doctor?” the young paramedic asked.

“I am a doctor. I was just on my way to the church for my wedding! Yes, that’s right. Now show me where those limos are…NOW!”

“But what about these patients? They need attention too.”

“You have other doctors here? Have any of these here been red-tagged? If not, then find two other doctors to help out until I can verify that my entire wedding party, family & fiancé is not in those limos. Please!”

As Spence ran in his spit-shined shoes and tuxedo, all he could think about was how long Rachelle could hold her breath underwater. He had served two tours while in the Navy, and had gone through rigorous training on staying underwater for as long as possible, and then beyond. He had always dreamed of being part of the SEAL team but wasn’t able to complete the program due to his mother getting sick. He had no siblings and his father had died when he was six, so it was just him and his mom. She begged him not to, but he did it anyway. Love is a powerful motivator.

“Come on Rach, if you’re in that limo underwater, just hold on…I’m coming.” This mantra kept playing in his head. As he counted the seconds out loud…”1, 2, 3, 4, 5…”

The sweat dripped down his face and back, even though it was barely 40 degrees outside. That meant the water was icy cold. That was a good thing. The chance of survival increased when the water temperature decreased.

Reaching the horrific reality of death and destruction, he grabbed the closest firefighter he could. The bright spotlights that had been set up so they could see the dark waters better, were shining on the two large black limos. One looked like it was floating, right side up, halfway submerged. Spence had no idea what was keeping it from sinking into the depth of the rushing water. The other vehicle was standing on end. The hood of the limo was sticking out of the water like a black obelisk. His mind went numb.

“Hey, have you pulled anyone out of there yet? My fiancé may be in one of those limos. Please, we were getting married tonight. I can’t reach her on her cell and I’m petrified that those limos are my wedding party, family and fiancé!” Spence doubled over when he felt the bile coming up his esophagus. Turning from the firefighter, he emptied his stomach on the ground.

“You okay, sir? We’ve brought out three people and two bodies so far. It’s still hard to tell if it was a wedding party or a prom or something else. Everyone looks dressed up. Give me a minute and I’ll see if there’s any more information. You said you’re a doctor? We could really use your help.”

“Please tell me where the bodies are and the wounded. I’ll start helping, with them.” Spence walked in the direction of a make-shift tent that he pointed him to. Heart beating hard and fast, Spence found himself still counting. It was something he did as a kid when he got nervous. Well, he was terrified of what he would find when he opened the flap of the tent.

“120, 121, 122, 123…”

His shoes were covered in mud and it started raining. He reached out to open the flap when a beautiful red-headed, green-eyed woman appeared in a frustrated hurry. It was dark near the tent, and Spence had only one thing on his mind. He barely noticed the woman, until she looked up at him while standing no more than a foot apart. A vision started to form. The woman’s hair was wet, her makeup was running, and the dress she wore looked smudge with water, blood, and dirt. There was a part of it that looked as though it hadn’t been touched by any of the horrors of that night. A beautiful vail that the woman was wearing and holding at the same time. It sat slightly crooked on her head and the tiara that held it was broken on one end.

As Spencer’s eyes cleared and his heart slowed, he reached out for the love of his life. This vision of a woman was real. He pulled her close and just hung on.

“Oh my God…You’re alive. You’re here. I can’t believe I found you. Are you hurt? Please talk to me. Rachelle…are you injured?” Spence was yelling. He didn’t mean to, but also couldn’t help himself.

“I’m fine. They just checked me out, but we have to get back out there. Mom, dad, and Daniel are still in the water. The other limo had 8 people, Spence. Eight! Three of your groomsmen and their plus-ones. We gotta go, come on.” Rachelle picked up the bottom of her wedding dress and ran towards the mayhem. Looking at his fiancé, he realized her feet were bare and she was running on rocks and debris as if it were nothing.

“Rachelle, wait…who were the other two in the limo?” he yelled, but it was too late. She was already gone.

Six Months Later

“You better be at the church on time. I’m only doing this once. Well, technically this is the second time, but with the same person. Oh, and I’m not riding in a limo, ever again. The Ford Focus is just fine with me. I love you Dr. Spencer Jackson, and I can’t wait to finally be your wife. Lord knows we need some joy around here. See you soon,” Spence hung up his cell and smiled after hearing Rachelle’s voice message.

“Tommy, you ready? We are leaving in 5 minutes. I know it’s still two hours before the ceremony, but I want to be prepared for anything this time.” Spence yelled at his cousin, who was standing in for Evan, his best friend throughout high school and college. Spence had paid a visit to Evan at the cemetery this morning. He missed Evan and never imagined anyone else as his best man. Life doesn’t always work out the way you hoped, but somehow it always turns out just the way it’s supposed to, eventually.

Standing at the front of the church with Tommy, the pastor, and the ring-bearer, Spence stood in awe and a thankful heart as he watched Rachelle’s best friend, Melody walk down the aisle as the maid-of-honor. It was a slow walk, thankfully. Melody was only six months into her physical therapy and rehab. The loss of her leg in the accident was a terrible blow, but she was alive and the smile on her face told everyone all they needed to know. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church and when the music swelled with the Wedding march, everyone stood to not only respect and honor the red-headed beauty coming down the aisle, but also to show appreciation and gratefulness for all she did to help those who survived the collapsing of the bridge on her wedding day many months ago.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together in the presence of God, family, and friends, to share in this joyous occasion of holy matrimony, for the second time. To those who are present, Spencer and Rachelle want to thank you for coming. For those who are not present physically, but are watching from above, Rachelle and Spencer thank you for your love, friendship and a lifetime of memories. Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?”

“Her grandmother and I do,” said the grey-haired man standing next to the bride.

 

Posted in Just thinking out loud, Uncategorized

Finally Friday

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Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

 

It’s been a while since I have actually purchased a book from a favorite Christian author and sat down to immerse myself in the historical journey of a character in the time of Christ. There aren’t too many authors who can take me into that time period and make it real enough to have to look out the window occasionally to make certain that I wasn’t in Samaria or the Kiddron Valley in 30 AD. When I went to my favorite Christian bookstore to pick out a birthday gift from my granddaughter, I wasn’t planning on purchasing a novel for me. But if any of you know me, I can’t resist. I love bookstores.

As I walked the aisles, I noticed a few of my favorite writers. Quickly checking each of them out to see if I had missed anything they had written. Wow! How do writers put out so many full-length novels in such a short time? It use to be one every couple of years. Trust me, I remember waiting on Francine Rivers to finish her Mark of the Lion trilogy. I read each of them as she finished them. It was torture, but I waited with excitement until I got the news that she had finished book 2 in the trilogy. Nowadays, you barely finish one and the next is already out. I have to admit that I read a lot of my books on my Kindle or Amazon (only because it’s cheaper and spending $25 on a book that you find you really don’t like, is a bummer, plus it takes up space on your bookshelf that could be saved for a really great book).

Bodie and Brock Thoene have been long-time favorites of mine. A husband and wife writing team, they are amazing researchers and sticklers for correct detail about Biblical history. There imaginations and creative ways they tell a story gets me caught up in the emotional events of each character and plot, every single time.

The Zion Chronicles were the first series of books I read by the Thoene’s. I actually read the entire series again years later out loud every evening to my husband. His eyesight was bad due to diabetes and he loved hearing me read aloud for him, so that was one of our special evening rituals. After the Chronicles, came The Zion Covenant and the Zion Legacy and finally the Zion Diaries. What a great series! High five to the Thoenes. Lots of happy memories during those years that I was caught up in Mosche Sachar’s story. I learned almost everything I know about Israel and the birth pains it has gone through during the early Biblical times, and through the Holocaust and becoming a state, through the Thoene’s writings. I knew the history of Israel, but never the emotion. It is an amazing series if you ever get a chance to work your way through it. Not only is it educational, but it’s great story-telling.

Francine Rivers is another one of my favorite Christian Fiction authors. That’s never been a secret. Her trilogy, The Mark of the Lion, is, hands-down, some of the very best writing I have ever read. It’s the first time I actually felt what the character was feeling. It’s the first piece of Christian fiction that I actually was moved to tears and made a re-dedication to the Lord at the end to be better, live more faithfully, stop complaining and love others more and to be more thankful.

In The Mark of the Lion series, the main character, Hadassah, is someone you won’t soon forget. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read the series, I am touched and better by it every single time. Ms. Rivers has a gift of being able to draw the reader into the life of the character and move you to want to change. You want to be more. I don’t really know how to explain it, but after reading many reviews over the years of Ms. Rivers books, most reviewers make the same comment of her writing. I cannot speak to every single one of her books, as I haven’t read them all, but the ones I have read? They are inspiring.

I didn’t intend for this posting to be an “author review” yet as a fellow writer/author, I always want to let the experts know how much they are appreciated.

Ted Dekker, as many of you know, is another one of my favorites in the Christian Fiction genre. He is completely different in his writing style from the Thoenes or Ms. Rivers, but I love variety. Ted wrote a series many years ago called The Circle Trilogy. I have never known quite where to place Mr. Dekker’s books as far as genre goes. The Circle Series probably fits under Christian/Science Fiction/Fantasy style genre. That’s a mouthful, I know, but trust me, he makes it work. I’ve always loved the idea of time-travel anyway, so when you read the series, you’ll understand what I’m referring to. It is exciting, thrilling, heart-pounding story-telling at its best. The types and shadows of what Christianity truly means are woven all throughout the series. Ted has a style uniquely his own. If you have read any of Dekkers books, you know that they can be terrifying at times. He is one of those creators that knows what demons are out there in the universe trying to bring down anyone who proclaims Christ as their king. The battles we fight are not ones we can see with our eyes or touch with sword or weapons, but the battles that wage are ones in the spirit world. After reading Dekker, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the devil is real and his demons are not stopping until the final battle when God’s army wins!

Ted Dekker is a lot like Frank Peretti. Talk about not being able to sleep! After reading “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” from back in the ’80s, it wasn’t easy walking amongst people without seeing in your mind the evil spirits that could easily take over someone’s life. Mr. Peretti and Mr. Dekker truly know what spiritual warfare is all about. Scary for sure. I slept with the nightlights on for a long time. (typically I turn them on during the day and off when I’m sleeping…I know that’s weird, but it’s what I do. Can’t sleep with ANY light. Of course, I haven’t read a Frank Peretti book in a long time.)

Joel Rosenberg is another favorite author. Also different from the other four, I’ve mentioned so far. Mr. Rosenberg writes up-to-date political thrillers, Bible prophesy, Middle East politics, etc…Did I mention THRILLER? Wow, he is one of those writers that keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes your jaw drop. He is what I call a “fact-based fiction writer.”  He takes his “series” books very seriously! “The Last Jihad” series was my first taste of Rosenberg. What an amazing way to get to know an author. I was hooked.

The “Third Target” series has a main character named J.B.Collins, who is an award-winning journalist with many issues. His life gets thrown into a conspiracy that could tear down the Middle East many lifetimes to come. Trust me on this…it’s pulse-pounding excitement. Even more so, when you read about it in the news and wonder if its fact or fiction. I’m a fan, can you tell? Can’t wait to read his newest, The Persian Gamble. The second book in the Kremlin Conspiracy series.

As you can see, I have a wide variety of authors and genres I enjoy. I listed the favorites in the Christian Fiction arena since I prefer filling my mind with entertainment that has Christian values and foundation.  I won’t lie though…I do have a few favorites that do not fall under “Christian author”. Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas, Jack London, Emily Bronte, and Lucy Maude Montgomery! Just to name a few. I’m certain there are more, but for now, I will end on this.

Reading a good book brings me much joy. I don’t get to travel much anymore, nor have I experienced certain things that I wish I could, so reading about it, keeps my mind sharp, clear and full of wonderful imaginations. I feel like I’ve climbed Mount Everest and built the ancient pyramids. I feel as though I was the child who found one of the ancient scrolls and hid it safely away so years later it could be written in the Bible I carry today. I think in another life a very long time ago, I stood in the Roman coliseum with other Christians waiting for the lions to attack us while singing songs of praise.  When I read, I experience what courage is, what love is, what fear feels like and what wonders this world has. I learn that the things that are written of in the Bible are being experienced right now in my time. When I read my Bible, I know that I am loved, protected, provided for and that God’s grace is sufficient for me. Words are powerful. Both written and spoken. They can change people for good or not-so-good. They inspire, encourage, warn or educate.

In closing of this long posting (I can hear you sighing thankfully right now), I just want to say that when you realize how powerful words are, it lays a huge responsibility on our shoulders. I pray that the words I speak and the words I write will always bring inspiration, encouragement and eye-opening moments of clarity to everyone my words touch.

I had no idea when I started this post, that I would write over 1600 words. My editor would call it “good practice.” I pray it was something more.

Just thinking out loud

 

 

 

 

Posted in Completed Stories

Third Grade Hero

 

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Marcus looked over at the young boy huddled under the desk. His eyes were squeezed shut and he rocked back and forth with his hands over his ears. Marcus entire body wanted to reach out and grab the little guy and pull him into safety. But safety was not to come for a long time.

Marcus loved teaching third grade. That was the age where the kids still had a healthy respect for authority and lived life to the fullest. They had absolutely no guile. Everything was new and had something adventurous waiting around the corner. They still believed in magic. They still thought people were good and kind. It broke Marcus heart to think that their world would never be the same again.

The first gunshots had happened at 10:03 a.m. during a lesson in social studies. Marcus had been teaching them to know how to find a place on the map by longitude and latitude. It was such a joy to him every time he saw the change from “learning to read” and “reading to learn.” The children were little sponges that soaked everything up. Marcus understood the responsibility he had and vowed never to forget.

By 10:04 a.m. the elementary school was in complete lockdown. His class had gone through “lock-down” protocols and practice runs, several times throughout the year. They knew that there could be a chance when something “bad” happened and in order to be safe, the school would “lock” them in to protect them.

As Marcus looked around as much as he could from under his own desk, he could tell by the terror in the kids’ eyes, that they knew this was not a practice test run. This was the real thing. Marcus could hear his students whispering. Some were prayers, some were simply calling out for their mommy or daddy.  There were a few who were crying and one in particular who was acting very brave by telling his classmates to be quiet and wait. “The principal has this and the police will be here in a few minutes.”

Marcus prayed he was right. Two more gunshots startled all of them. Marcus could tell by the sound that whoever it was, had just gotten closer to his class. Two girls started screaming which only added to the already tense story that was playing out in living color. Marcus had served two tours in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and knew that quiet and calm were two things that could save them. He wasn’t worried about himself, but he was terrified for his kids. He knew he had to make certain they were all safely hidden which also meant he had to get out from under his desk and expose himself to the open area. The class door was closed. If he could push a couple bookshelves in front of the door, it would deter the monsters for a while.

Before crawling out, Marcus reached into his bottom desk drawer and pulled out a pocket knife that he always kept under lock and key. He not only had been military, but he was an Eagle Scout. Even though he knew he could get into trouble for having it, he was glad he hadn’t taken it home. It may not be much help, but for now, it gave him a fighting chance.

“Don’t leave me…” Marcus heard the little guy, David, whisper.

“I’m not leaving, David. I’m going to push those bookshelves in front of the door to give us a little more protection. How’s that? You stay right there okay? You can watch me and be my lookout. Does that sound good?” Marcus tried to sound as calm as a cucumber but wasn’t sure it was convincing enough to a 9-year-old boy hiding under a school desk from scary people with guns outside his classroom.  Marcus added a smile and thumbs up hoping to calm David’s fears even a little.

“I guess…” he said quietly. “But what if they come in here? I’m small. I can’t fight them cuz my mom say’s to use your words and not your fist.”

“Well, for the most part, your mom is right. Especially when Billy Johnson is calling you names and pushing you around. He’s a bully that’s for certain, but I’ve watched you handle yourself very well. Your mom would be proud. In a case like this, I don’t think she’d mind if you used anything you could to fight the bad guys off.” Marcus was groaning a little with the weight of the bookshelves. He hadn’t realized they were so heavy. After they were both in place, Marcus peaked under the little desk and reached out his hand to David.

“Come on buddy. Let’s get you somewhere with more cover. Take my hand. It will be okay.”

“Are you sure? My big sister Lizzy told me all about different school shootings and they didn’t turn out okay.” David looked squarely into his teacher’s eyes for reassurance.

“You’re right. All we can do is protect ourselves the best we can and pray that the authorities outside catch the bad guys and come and rescue us. But until then, we have to do everything we can to be safe, right?” Marcus really wished Lizzy had kept her mouth shut.

“Okay, then,” David said.

Marcus had 25 students today in class. He figured most of them were hiding in the coat closets and others were probably inside the large cupboards that held supplies. With a bathroom in the room, a few would be there too. After counting everyone to make certain they were present and accounted for, Marcus took them two by two as quietly as possible into the bathroom. There was only one stall, so it was cramped, but being together helped to calm the children.

As the last two children were led into the bathroom, another gunshot went off. Marcus was sure it was right outside the classroom. The tension in the bathroom escalated.  Marcus held up a finger to his lips and told the kids without words, to be as quiet as a mouse.

They could hear yelling, screaming, and doors opening and closing. Marcus figured they were coming into each classroom. From what he could tell, there were at least two shooters, maybe more. David was clinging to Marcus’ arm like his life depended on it. The pocket knife in Marcus’ hand was the only weapon he had, besides his hand-to-hand combat training, which he hadn’t had to use in 10 years.

Marcus had to think of something in case the gunmen got into the classroom. He paused for a moment and knew exactly what he had to do. Squatting down until he was eye-to-eye with David, he pulled out the pocket knife and handed it to the little boy.  Marcus leaned in and whispered, “don’t be afraid to use it if you have to. Your mom would be proud.”

Somehow, the child understood the magnitude of the situation and at that moment in time, he stopped being a little boy.

Marcus turned and waited…The classroom door rattled. The bookshelves fell forward with a crash. Marcus looked at his little charges and thought to himself what an honor it was to teach them and how brave they were. In perfect silence, each of them looked at their teacher and knew he was going to fight the bad guys to protect them.

Marcus could see under the crack of the door, the shadows of two sets of shoes. He waited until they were directly in front of the door, then smashed it open and knocked one of them down. He quickly shut the door and rammed his fist into the throat of one of the masked gunmen before he could fire a shot. Only one more man was left. Where had he gone? Marcus turned around the room looking. He wondered for a second if the gunman had left the classroom, but when the hair on the back of his neck tingled and he felt the barrel of an automatic rifle touch the back of his head, Marcus knew that wasn’t the case. The third-grade teacher figured this was the end. Yet for some reason that only God knew, the gunman didn’t shoot. With his hands raised, Marcus slowly turned around to face the gunman, hoping to distract him from the bathroom area. What he saw next, made his heart nearly stop.

David had opened the bathroom door. The man whom Marcus had killed lay near the bathroom. David reached out and slid the rifle away from the body and into the bathroom. As the gunman was yelling and cursing in a stream of crazy, Marcus did his best not to give away what was going on behind the mad man.

“Dear Lord, please don’t let that gun go off accidentally. Lord please don’t let them do anything to bring attention to themselves,” Marcus prayed to himself.  With the shooters back to the bathroom, Marcus had a full view of his students. He could tell that David was getting ready to try something and Marcus knew he had to keep the gunman’s attention diverted for as long as possible. No matter what.

Marcus watched in fear, as David pulled out the switchblade and opened it. Heart racing, Marcus had an idea of what David was going to do, and he knew it could get David killed.

The brave little third-grade boy walked quietly out of the bathroom towards the gunman’s back as Marcus spoke up in a loud voice, “Hey, man. You really don’t need to do this. If you put your weapon down, the police will go a lot easier on you. It could shorten your jail time too. Which that’s always a good thing, right?”

Marcus was nervous, not for himself per se, but for the little guy sneaking up with the knife pointed at the gunman. Marcus watched, in surprise and awe as David lifted the knife above his head, then jammed it into the gunman’s right calf. The gunman yelled out in shock and pain. The shooter dropped his gun and became distracted just long enough for Marcus to grab it and knock him out. After tying him up with rope from a project the kids had been working on, Marcus finally looked around the room for David. His hero.

David was sitting on the floor in the corner. Marcus picked him up and walked into the little bathroom with the other children. There eyes were big as saucers and tears were all over there faces. Marcus held up his thumb to let them know everything was good but still held his fingers to his lips, not knowing for certain if the horror was truly over.

As they huddled together, the next ten minutes felt like a lifetime for each of them. Yet not one of them made a sound.

“This is the police. You’re surrounded. Put your weapons down and come out with your hands up!” It sounded like a bull horn.

Marcus and the kids all breathed a sigh of relief but still not a peep out of the children. Marcus walked to the door, but yelled through first. He didn’t want them thinking he was the shooter.

“It’s Marcus Jackson, teacher of the third grade. My kids and I are safe, but we have two gunmen in the classroom. One is dead and the other is knocked out and tied up. I’m opening the door. Don’t shoot.”

As he did, the sea of men in blue with guns blazing (or ready to blaze) made Marcus shudder. He lifted his hands just to make sure they understood that he was the victim and not the bad guy.

Walking out of the school that day, with his student, Marcus’ hands started to shake. It reminded him of how he felt returning from a patrol in a Humvee through the Afghanistan desert. The adrenaline and sheer relief that he was alive, always resulted in the shakes. Marcus made sure each student was reunited with family before heading towards the building where he would be questioned and debriefed.

A little hand reached out and grabbed him by the wrist. Looking down he saw David.

“Here Mr. Jackson, you forgot your pocket-knife. Thank you for keeping us safe and I hope it was okay for me to use the knife. You said I could if I needed to, and I saw you in trouble and thought that was a good time to use it. I hope you’re not mad.”

“Mad? Are you kidding? You were the bravest little boy I’ve ever seen. Thank you for saving my life. You are my third-grade hero. ”

Marcus watched as David ran to meet his mom and dad. Parents screaming out their child’s name and praying to see a familiar face filing out of the school building. The fear was always first, then the look of total relief and finally utter joy as each loved one recognized there boy or girl. Next came contact. That first hug, kiss, more hugs, then the tears. Finally, that overwhelming sense of gratefulness and realization that this day could have ended so differently had it not been for one brave little third-grade hero.

 

Posted in Completed Stories

One Night At The Library

***This was an assignment given in one of my fiction writing classes. We had 15 minutes to write a story that included a library, a conflict, and a librarian.***

 

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“I’m sorry Jack, but if you don’t have the assignment turned in by tomorrow, you won’t be playing in the game on Friday night. No second chances,” Jacks Chemistry teacher looked him square in the eyes and didn’t blink.

“But Mr. Wilson, I’m the star quarterback. I have to play in the game on Friday night.  You wouldn’t let something like one paper be the reason why our school loses the playoff game, would you?” Jack famous cocky grin was met with Stonewall Jackson!

Looks like Jack was going to be spending the rest of his day (and night) in the library. There was no way he was missing that game.

After practice, Jack went out with some of the guys from the team to get a burger and discuss a few last minute pointers for the game. Before he realized it, it was 8pm. The library was only opened one more hour!
Speeding across town in his Jeep with his favorite band playing, Jack didn’t notice the police lights coming up behind him.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Jack said out loud to his own foolish self. Reaching for his license and registration, he slowly rolled down his window.

“Well, if it isn’t Jack Dollin, QB1 of the Central High Cougars. License and registration please.”

Jack knew this guy. Ron Beecham. He played football with Jack’s dad back in the day. From the stories Jack had heard, the two of them were constantly going at it. Ron felt he deserved being QB, but never quite made the cut. Lots of bad blood between them.

“Hi, Mr. Beecham. I’m kind of in a hurry. Can you tell me why you pulled me over and let me go? The library closes in 45 minutes and I have to get in there before that.” Jack respectfully asked.

“It’s Officer Beecham to you, son, and yes I can tell you why I pulled you over. You were speeding, and I don’t really care if you make it or not to the library, so just sit there while I write this up.”

Jack’s palms started sweating and his heart started racing. If he didn’t make it to the library to get the books he needed to write the paper that he had to have by tomorrow morning, he wouldn’t play in the most important game of the year. The coach would be furious, his dad would be disappointed and his mom would ground him for the rest of his high school days. After 15 stressful minutes, the officer finally handed him the ticket and let him on his way.

Pulling the door of the library opened, Jack ran in and looked around for the help desk. He heard a vacuum running in the distance and could have sworn he heard someone singing. The lights in the back were shutting off and he looked at the clock on the wall. He had 15 minutes left.

“Excuse me, I am so glad you are still opened. I have a Chemistry paper due in the morning, and I need to check out a few books. Can you point me in the direction of the science area?”

Jack waited for the lady to turn around and look at him. She was on the phone.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” He waited.

She just held up her finger like he was 5 years old and kept talking. He decided to start looking for himself. He walked down the aisles until he started to feel claustrophobic. Romance, mystery, fiction, historical, Science fiction, magazines, periodicals…Jack could feel himself start to sweat. Looking at his cell phone, he only had 5 minutes left.

“The Library will be closing in 5 minutes. Please bring your books to the front to check out.” The overhead speaker blasted. Jack wanted to shout out to anyone in the quickly darkening library, “where is your science section?” He was pretty sure no one would hear since it looked as if he were the only person left in the building.

“Hey, you. You need to get your book and come up front. We’re closing in less than 5 minutes. Didn’t you hear the announcement?”

Jack saw that the woman who had been on the phone was standing at the end of the aisle, hands on hips and a glare in her eye.

“Yes, I heard it, but I needed your help and you were busy. Now I’m lost and can’t find what I need. Can you please show me where the science section of books is located? I need a couple to check out for an assignment. It’s important.” Jack heard his voice sound a little like begging.

“Science section? I don’t even know what that is? We don’t have a science section. So you’re just going to have to leave and maybe try a bookstore tomorrow.”

Jack could tell that she wanted to end her day now! She wasn’t going to do anything that might make it go longer than absolutely necessary.

“Okay, fine. Maybe you don’t have a “science section” but I need a book on the life of Louis Pasteur or Ernest Rutherford? I just need a couple books on either one and I will be out of your hair.” Jack spoke a little more confidently, feeling for sure she would help. She was a librarian for goodness sakes!

“I’m sorry. The library is now officially closed. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

Jack couldn’t believe his ears. She turned and walked away. Jack started to follow but nearly ran into an elderly man who was vacuuming.

“Oh excuse me, I’m sorry. I was just trying to catch the librarian before she locked me in or kicked me out.”

The old guy turned off the vacuum and smiled kindly. “I wouldn’t bother with that one. She runs this place like a Gestapo. I’ve worked here for 10 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her keep the library open 1 minute past closing time. I overheard you were looking for a couple books on some very well-known and extremely bright scientists! I know just where they are. Follow me.”

Jack couldn’t believe his good fortune. He followed the old man who left the vacuum and started some tune Jack had never heard before. Within a couple minutes, they were standing in front of an entire section of books by famous inventors, scientist, archeologists.

“Here ya go. Two books on Rutherford and one on Pasteur. Now get out of here and good luck.”

Jack ran down the aisle and to the front desk. No one was there. Now what?

“She shut everything down? Well, don’t you worry. I have my library card right here, and since I’m an employee, I am going to check them out and leave her a note to find tomorrow. She may wonder why I took a sudden interest in inventors and Nobel Prize winners. But don’t you worry. You take them home, study them and write a great paper son.”

The kind old guy with greying hair and hunched shoulders had a little twinkle in his eyes as he patted Jack on the shoulder. Heading across the parking lot, Jack could have sworn he heard someone singing. With a “not-so-cocky” grin on his face, he jumped in his jeep and headed home.

Posted in Story Excerpts

Sophia’s Story

***The title of my book won’t be “Sophia’s Story.” But for now, I’m not ready to share the title I’m leaning towards. Maybe when I’m done, I’ll have a better idea if its really going to fit. Does that make sense? Hope so…it’s all I got for now. So I hope you enjoy the opening chapter. It needs some tweaking and editing, but I wanted to share something with you. Let me know what you think.***

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Slamming the door behind her, Sophia threw the messenger bag on the floor, took a deep breath and caught a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror. The reflection looked like a stranger. A thin, tired looking young woman with dark circles under her eyes stared back with a look of accusation on her face. Sophia could have sworn she heard the stranger say something snarky like,

“This is what you get when you don’t take care of yourself.”

Oddly, the stranger’s voice sounded a whole lot like her mom’s. Weird. Between midterms, deadlines, part-time job and study, the number of hours left for sleep sounded better if you said them in minutes. She was doing the best she could. God, she wished there were more hours in the day – said almost everyone at some point in their lives. So, until she learned how to stop time, slow it down or add to it, burning the candle at both ends was the only way she could get everything accomplished.

She took off the boots that had been cramping her feet all day and sighed with relief. Jacket, scarf, and beanie came next. Grinning at the beanie with the crazy wild colors, Sophia thought of her little sister, Hannah. Last year, the family had decided there would be no store-bought gifts for Christmas. Only homemade. Hannah took a knitting class all summer just to prepare. Everyone in the family received a knitted beanie, slippers or a throw blanket. That’s her baby sister for ya.

Sophia made a coffee mug that said “Hannah” on it, at one of those pottery “do-it-yourself” stores. She did add a little something special to the mug with a black permanent marker that said, “Nancy Drew” in small letters under her name. A little inside joke between the family.

The singing coming from the other room, let Sophia know that her roommate, Callie was home. Loud, passionate and full-blooded Italian, Callie was not just her roommate, but also her best friend.

Sophia freed her hair from the braid that had kept it bound all day and was pretty sure she heard a heartfelt “thank-you” from the mahogany colored strands. She grabbed a pencil and after putting her hair up in a messy bun, jabbed the pencil through to hold it in place. Mom always called it her “glory” but Sophia had a few other choice names for her hair and “glory” wasn’t one of them.

Her friends called her lucky to have such a lovely head of curls. Sophia remembers praying for straight, boring hair. The memory of her mom working tirelessly on her hair every morning before school made Sophia realize that part of the joy in the journey, were in the rituals that were kept. Along with the pain from knots and tugs, while her mom worked her way through the long curly hair, Sophia learned about the adventures of her mom when she was a little girl. Sophia could never wish that time lost.

“Your nana did not have one ounce of creativity for hairstyles. A ponytail or pigtails were the only two options I had. On Sundays, I got a bow in my hair! So you should be grateful that I love trying new things with yours.” Sophia remembered that day as clear as if it happened this morning.

Her mom had been quite the tomboy growing up, so she wondered how long that Sunday bow stayed in her hair!

Sophia realized that even though she was 22 years old, a Junior in college and 3,000 miles away from home, she still felt far from being all “grown up.” She was a young girl trying to follow her dream while missing her family something fierce. Not an unusual story by any standards. But this was her story. Her pages to fill with experiences, both good and bad, ups and downs. Her nana would call it, the joy of the journey. “No matter what happened in the past, my sweet girl, today is a clean slate. So get ready.”

The phone rang in the other room and jarred her back to the present and out of her nostalgic moment. Sophia prayed that she’d be ready for whatever was coming her way.

Posted in Daily Delights

Sincerely Saturday

 

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I am feeling lucky this morning. I got 6 hours of sleep last night! That’s a new high for the week. Sleeping with knee pain, back pain, hip pain and any other joints that connect the bones together is not fun. They are messy, irritating and obnoxious partners that cause all sorts of crankiness to come out in me. I get a few breaks, every now and then from there shenanigans, which I thank the Lord for, but then they sneak up on me again when I least expect it. A walk to my car; putting groceries away; brushing my teeth; picking out a book to read in the tub…well you get the picture. I don’t have to be doing something crazy, like pushing my car to the side of the road to change a tire; climbing up a ladder to paint the ceiling in my kitchen; lifting 100 lb bags of beans…Nope. I doubt you would ever catch me doing those things, but my point is…those are things that could hurt my back or knees. Makes sense, right? So I stay away from doing those things.  But standing at my sink washing my dishes? How is that disrupting to my joints and bones? Seriously? And then I have days like today. Low pain, able to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time (hence the blogging), beautiful Spring day with cool temps and fresh ground beans for my coffee. Now that’s what I like. So I’m going to focus on the good instead of the irritating today. Yes, things might be different tomorrow, but for now, I’m grateful. Plus tomorrow could be better than today!

My devotion this morning was out of Matthew 6:10…”May your kingdom come and what you want be done, here on earth as it is in heaven.” (not the KJV, but nice none-the-less)

Today, March 9th, Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment states the following:

“God is not the God of confusion, and wherever he sees sincere seekers with confused hearts, you can bet your sweet December that he will do whatever it takes to help them see his will.”

I love that. I am definitely a “sincere seeker” with a sometimes “confused heart.” I am so fortunate that God is a perfect father that will do whatever it takes to help me see his will. He understands confused hearts. He can work with that. He just wants to know that we are sincere in our searching, our quest, our journey or whatever other names you want to call it.

The dictionary states that the word “sincere” is this:

“free from pretense or deceit. Proceeding from genuine feelings. Not dishonest or hypocritical.”

Webster puts it like this: “Free of dissimulation.” (I had to look that word up…) it means to “hide under a false appearance.” Wow.

Bottom line? “You can bet your sweet December”… that God will help you/me in whatever we need, as long as we have a sincere heart that is seeking or searching.

Moving on:

I sent out one chapter or excerpts of a short story that I wrote last Spring, called “Letters from the Sky” to a literary agent that was interested in reading something I had written. It was unfinished, but just basically the first 5 pages of a fun idea. Well, the agent promptly responded back a rousing, “I love your writing and this chapter made me want more. Please send three more chapters!”

Wow, I was completely surprised, pleased, excited, shocked and a few hundred other adjectives. I think she thinks that I have more pages to this story! But…remember me saying that it was an excerpt of a potential short story? Well, what I sent her, was all I have… so far. She doesn’t know that, and I’m not going to tell her. So guess what I’ve been doing since yesterday afternoon? You guessed it! I need to complete 3 more chapters for her by Monday evening. She loved chapter one, which means chapters 2 and 3 have to be better. After two cups of coffee this morning, I’m still pondering “what comes next?” I have some ideas, but nothing for sure yet. The goal is to have her keep her turning the pages and wanting more.

I did a lot of research yesterday. My protagonist or heroin is a top-notch, best-in-the-country, top-of-her-class, expert in forensic graphology. Now for those who don’t know what “graphology” is, I can help with that.

Graphology alone is simply the study of handwriting. Mostly for the purpose of character analysis, but can also be for much more. Fingerprints, document forging and the aging of documents and even bones. The forensic part means, the scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene).

My main character worked with the FBI and local detectives whenever her expertise was needed in a crime. With her degrees in criminology and psychology, she was needed a lot. Since the village circle of graphologists in the country is small, my girl was called on frequently.

After a very hard case, she decided to leave that field and do something else. Since writing was a love of hers, and with her educational background, she now works at the Washington Post in DC as a journalist in their crime division. You guessed it, something happens; she gets ordered to be a part of the team handling an unusual crime scene where her graphology knowledge will be pushed to the limits. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, but without going into much detail, ends up going. Her life is never the same again.

So there…you now have a general outline of the beginnings of my story. We’ll see how it goes, and I will keep you all in the loop. You are my number one fans and I love you for your encouragement along this exciting writing road-trip!

Never underestimate the power of a good story.

Just a quick update on my “Sophia” story. I am 50k words into it and hope to figure out a fantastic ending, soon. After that, it’s revisions and drafts, editing and more editing, then off to the actual professional editors, then picking out a cover design (here’s looking at you Rebekah)  Take a peek at her creations on Instagram @craftedbyrebekah and http://www.etsy.com/shop/CraftedbyRebekah.

After that, its’ off to the publishers to be put into book form and e-book form and into your hands sometime before the actual Sophia is a teen and doesn’t like me as much as she does now. Since the story is based on truth, sprinkled with imagination for what a “future” Sophia would face, I sincerely hope she will like it and give me her blessing. At this point, it would be the blessing of her mom and dad that I need, but I still want it to be something that Sophia would love and appreciate one day. Right now, when we discuss it, she’s just upset that her siblings have to be in the story! That’s a 9-year-old for you.

Honestly, with the story being set for a future Sophia in college, I don’t see the 9-year-old Sophia even being interested in it until she’s about 16. So that gives me some time! Just kidding. I’ll have it done before that.

If you check out my Excerpts category on this site, I will post a chapter of Sophia for you. You can tell me what you think.

So let it be written, so let it be done. 

“A book breaks the shackles of time.” Carl Sagan

 

 

 

Posted in Just thinking out loud

Two Steps Forward – One Step Back

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For those of you who have lost a loved one, you understand what I mean when I say “two steps forward – one step back.” Or maybe you don’t. It’s sort of one of those things I tell myself when I have one of those random, out-of-the-blue moments that my heart aches and the tears flow because I’m missing my husband. He’s been gone 11 years and I keep telling myself that I’m past the grieving. I’ve moved on. My heart is healed, my memories are tucked away in a nice little box where I can pull one out any time I please. Right?

Well, I have a secret to share. I’m not done missing him. I am not even sure if it’s called “grieving” at this point, but there are times when an onslaught of sadness will wash over me. I feel like I’m drowning. I suddenly feel completely and totally alone. The tears won’t stop. And for a few minutes, I give in to it and just let it happen. Then I dig down deep and try to find a foot-hold. A ladder. A hand. A light. Anything to ground me and help me up before the quicksand of sadness overwhelms me. Now please, don’t start panicking. The story isn’t finished.

I don’t know why it happens, or what triggers it. It’s never the anniversary date, or his birthday or Valentines Day… or any other “special” date that brings it on. I will admit, there have been times a song will come on the radio or on the playlist that reminds me of moments together. I’m figuring that since music was such a big part of our lives, that’s why it sends out such powerful emotions. Here’s a story for you:

We were never that “couple” that had a song that was just theirs. I was always a little envious of other couples that talked about their “special song.” I remember Josh and I driving one night from Las Vegas (where he had been building apartments) to our home in St. George, Utah and we were discussing this very big dilemma. Why didn’t we have a SONG? After much deliberation, we both decided that whatever song came on the radio when he turns it on, we would agree that would have to be Our Song. Now I realize that we were taking a huge risk. Who knew what would come on at that exact moment.

Holding our breath (at least I was), Josh flipped the radio on. Since we were in the middle of the desert, the only thing that came through was static! We looked at each other in shock and then quickly knew what was we had to do. Keep in mind, this was back when the vehicles had push-button pre-sets for your favorite radio stations. Finger poised over the buttons, Josh chose one and punched it in.

Stevie Wonder was singing “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”  We grinned at each other like high school sweethearts, which we weren’t, and knew we had a winner. It was a great moment. A sweet moment. However, I’ve listened to that song many times since he died and I feel nothing but happiness and joy.

On my dance as a widow, I call it “one step forward, two steps back.” It’s humbling, but I still am making progress. As soon as I think I’ve gotten ahead of the hurt, I realize I haven’t. Maybe the Lord is just reminding me that I still have Him. I know that in my head and even in my heart, it’s just occasionally my heart forgets. But then it remembers that He’s now my comforter, my protector, my provider, the lover of my soul and the healer of my broken heart. And I can breathe again.

Last night was one of those moments. But after I crawled out of the dark water, I reached for my daily devotion for today and knew I wasn’t alone.

“Sole Provider, Sole Comforter” was the title.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” And this was the scripture.

Here is what it said:

“As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken half-heartedly. 

But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on Him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on Him, for He is waiting in the midst of the storm.”  Max Lucado – The Applause of Heaven

Tell me…Is that perfectly what I needed, or what? No one…absolutely no one, can tell me that God doesn’t know every little thing we are feeling, every single burden we bear…and He is there. For me and for you. He will send you exactly what you need, at the exact moment you need it.

Naturally, after I read that, I thanked the Lord, then I went to my music. The song that came on was another God-send. Cece Winans singing “Comforter.” If you have never heard it, please take a moment and listen. It helped me through a lot of days and nights after Josh died.

God is still God and we are still human. It’s just a reminder that we will need Him to help us every day of our lives until we are safe in our eternal home.

Just thinkin’ out loud.