Monday, October 16, 2017

Laughing with the Lord #4

Welcome to #4 of Laughing with the Lord!

Wondering what makes God smile has long been a burning question for me. I know He smiles and laughs because He gave us the same abilities and imbued each of us with a sense of humor. Why wouldn't He join us?

When I raised my children I was too busy and tired to even wonder about it. But now that I'm older, wiser, and the grandmother of one lovely granddaughter and five handsome grandsons, I've witnessed time and again many things that surely make our Lord smile. Here are a few:

1.)   I'm convinced God smiles when His children appreciate the beauty of the world He created for us.

2.)   When Dustin, my oldest grandchild, was just a little guy--maybe a year old or so--we were at a restaurant and my daughter put a lemon slice up to his lips. He obliged her and chomped down. You can imagine the look on his face as he, for the first time in his young life, experienced what is probably the sourest taste on earth. We, of course, being the loving people we are, laughed until our sides ached. Hunter, her second child came along a short while later. Dennae did it again, and while Hunter shuddered at the first taste, he loved it! From then on, we made sure to ask for a slice of lemon with our water so Hunter could munch to his heart's content. Surely God smiled at the reactions of both boys. The Lord knows lemons are sour, and sooner or later everyone has to take that first taste. Nobody was hurt, nobody cried, and we were able to witness those precious first tastes.

3.)  ... when He watches little boys (or girls) pick dandelions-gone-to-seed and then blow their seeds all over the place ensuring their existence the following spring (and keeping Round-Up in business).

4.)  He loves it every time a child brings Mom that inevitable bouquet of the bright yellow flowers, and sees that both mom and child are as pleased as if it were a bunch of the most expensive orchids.                          

5.)  I believe He smiles each time children find such pleasure playing in the same material He used to create Man.
6.)  I believe our Father grins each time he sees a child experience snow for the first time, watches the wonder on his or her face as they feel how cold it is and how it covers everything, making their yard and neighborhood a magical world of white. If they're lucky, it's good packing snow, and they can make snowmen, igloos, snow forts and snowballs. Surely God is pleased.

And if He sees you standing on a glacier, thrilled to have made the hike and to have conquered the vast pile of snow and ice, He chuckles.

Until the next time ...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Laughing with the Lord #3

Welcome to Laughing with the Lord #3!

Every one of us has had experience with children who bring us to tears with laughter by their innocence and utter lack of guile. Here are some examples of the way I think little ones bring a big smile to God's Face.

1.     Many moons ago when my children were about 6, 7, and 8, a co-worker and I took a trip one evening to the Grand Rapids International Airport in Michigan to view the landing of Air Force One with President Jimmy Carter aboard. I nearly missed the whole event as it was raining so hard and the crowd was so huge I barely noticed the plane landing or the president disembarking. Nevertheless, the next morning I was eager to tell my little ones about Mommy's great presidential experience. I tried to build up the excitement by asking them who they thought I'd seen. Their guesses were typical of kids that age and nowhere near correct. Eventually I took pity on them and said, "I saw ... the ... president ... of the ... United States." Darice, the 7-year-old looked up at me, milk from her bowl of Cheerios dripping from her gaping mouth, and summoning all her presidential expertise, said, "You saw ... George Washington?"

2.     One of my children's favorite quotes was one used in the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. They were close, but not quite accurate. "Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an English muffin."

3.     I was a single mom back then and money was scarce. One of their favorite things to eat, though, was something I could afford (and coincidentally, something they recognized from another children's story). I called it fruit cocktail; they called it fruit cottontail.

4.     This one is embarrassing. You know you have morning breath when your three-year-old grandson sits on your lap early one day, and while you cuddle him, he sniffs the air and says, "I smell poop."

I can see God chuckling at the beauty of His little ones' innocence. How about you?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Laughing with the Lord #2

Here's a random list of things I think make our Heavenly Father smile, chuckle, or laugh out loud:

  • the look on a baby's face when he/she sneezes
  • the many ways a baby can find to smear food all over his/her face and still manage to get chubby
  • Molly's idea of playing hide and seek
  • a porcupine's face
  • a flotilla of sunbathing sea lions
  • a butterfly hiding in a profusion of flowers
How about you? What do you think makes Him smile? 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Laughing with the Lord #1

Welcome to my entirely new and twice-weekly Laughing with the Lord post! Maybe some of you know that Laughing with the Lord is my brand for the books I write, and I thought it was high time I shared some of the things (aside from what I write in my books) that I think makes our Lord and Savior smile, chuckle, or laugh out loud. 

As I state on my website by the same name, I firmly believe the Lord has seen fit to give us all the beauty, glory, and awesome diversity of His creation for our pleasure and survival. As if that weren't enough, He also gave us (among countless other gifts and abilities) a sense of humor with which to appreciate those aspects of human behavior we can't quite explain any other way.

To that end, let me give you today's example. I pick up my granddaughter, Molly, from kindergarten each afternoon, and today I was running late. As I dashed out the door and backed the car out of the garage, I noticed that the sun was trying to break through the ever-present (at least for the past few weeks) rainclouds. I knew there would be a rainbow closely. 

Sure enough, as I rounded the corner to the road on which the school is situated, there it was behind me in all its stunning glory. I rolled to a stop at the side of the road, jumped out with my phone, and got thoroughly soaked as I took pictures of this glorious spectacle. Of course, that put me even further behind, and as I skidded into the parking lot of the school and backed into a parking space against a grassy incline, I failed to notice I'd parked in six inches of icy water--until I stepped smack-dab into it. By that time it was too late, so I plowed through trying to look as though I'd planned the whole thing--the running behind, the wet hair, the soaked shoes and socks. Yep, all planned to perfection. 

I'm pretty sure I heard God chuckle. But aside from the joy it gives me to think I made God happy, it was worth all the sogginess to gaze at His covenant with His children. 

Until tomorrow ... 

Monday, October 2, 2017

12 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Writer

At some point in our lives, or maybe at several points, we're faced with deciding what direction we want to take with our profession or if we're ready to take on a second livelihood. We might be tied into a particular job for multiple reasons--great pay, pension, healthcare--and those are all legitimate reasons to stay. And if that job takes twenty hours of your day, each and every day of the week, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about moving into another career, or side job, or hobby.

But if it doesn't or if you're considering a change in career, and if you feel the tug to be a writer, now or sometime in the future when the kids are grown, you're retired, or you just feel you have the time, then think about some of the following points to see if you're suited for the writer's life.

1.     If you think nothing of carrying on a conversation with the people in your head, you might be a writer. If you find yourself eavesdropping on those same people in your head, even if you're not conversing with them, you certainly could be a writer. While it might sound silly, it's a common practice for writers to rehearse scenes in our heads as we test dialogue, see how characters interact with one another, or just plot out a certain part of the book. It's as natural to us as practicing the piano is to a pianist. I imagine they sometimes rehearse in their heads; we're no different.

2.     If watching people around you, checking out their mannerisms, how they stand, sit, walk, converse with others, how they discipline their children or talk to their spouse or friends, is comfortable and natural for you, you could be a writer.

Smooth sailing toward my goal of successful author! Wait... 
that's not me. That's a kite. An otter kite. And it's heading
straight for that tree branch on the right. Such an easy mistake 
to make: author-otter. Yep. 

3.     If you see someone and think to yourself, "What a great so and so (name of character in your manuscript/short story he/she would be!" then you could be a writer. Ditto if you run home and write down his/her description for future reference. 

4.     If everyday events trigger ideas for a story, then you might consider becoming a writer. If you can't get through a day without coming up with story ideas, you could very well become a writer.

6.     If you find yourself taking notes (physically or mentally) while reading a book, you might have the stuff to be a writer. And if you find yourself correcting someone's grammar, punctuation, or other aspects of a book, you should think about being a writer (or even an editor).

7.     If you don't mind working by yourself for sizable chunks of time, you could be a writer. Yes, writing is a far less solitary endeavor than it was even twenty years ago, but for the most part the actual writing--sitting down at the computer and pounding out words--should be done while you're alone or with very quiet people... except for #8, that is.

8.    On the other hand, if you can concentrate well with chaos all around you--kids, pets, spouse, television, maybe the neighbor's kids--you could also be a writer. It depends on how much noise and distraction you can filter out while thinking clearly and actually writing something worthwhile. I spent many an evening writing my first manuscript with the ruckus of three teenagers all around me. In fact, for a while there it was difficult for me to write when it was quiet. I needed the background noise.

9.     If you don't mind starting at the bottom of the heap and working your way upward, paying your dues, working hard and taking direction, accepting constructive criticism (mean-spirited criticism should never be accepted), constantly straining forward to learn more, write more, accept rejection (because it will come), read, read, and read some more, and write every chance you have to get better and better at your craft, you might just have what it takes to be a writer.

10.     If you have a natural talent for writing, you should definitely consider becoming a writer. If you don't seem to have an innate ability, try taking some college courses to see if it can be drawn out of you or if you even enjoy it. A lot of writing, at least in my experience, seems to be intuitive. If you feel you have the ability to honestly view your writing as either good and in need of more work (and all writers, successful or not, have to keep learning and striving to become better), or hopeless and no amount of work will change that fact, it will take you a long way to making the final decision. A lot of what makes a good writer can be learned. Some of it cannot.

11.     If you can live with the fact that you probably won't be the next J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, you could be a writer. If you're bound and determined to hit the bestseller lists first time out you're either deluded, optimistic, incredibly driven, or ... right. You just might be right! Just because most of us won't reach the pinnacle of the bestseller lists on a regular basis doesn't mean you won't. Perhaps you'll be that one in a million. If you can accept those odds, go for it! (And that's not to denigrate those who won't reach the top of the heap. There's only so much room up there or else we'd all be there and there'd be nobody below us to keep those mid-lists warm.)

12.     If you think writing a book will make you rich and that's the reason you're doing it, you're fooling yourself and should probably drop the idea of being a writer. If, on the other hand, you want to write whether you make a dime or not, if you can't help yourself from writing, then you have what it takes to be a writer. A few of us get rich. Many of us write and eventually get published. Some of us, rich or not, make a mark on our fellow human beings. Frankly, as much as I'd enjoy making more money writing books than I do, I'd opt for influencing fellow human beings in a positive way any day of the week. If you can live with the idea that you might not make enough money in a year to pay for your internet access, but you have readers who love your work and tell you what a difference you've made in their lives, well, you're definitely writer material.

No two ways about it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up! (Or something like that.)

It’s never a good idea to fall down a flight of stairs and an even worse idea when you’re carrying a six-month-old baby. But that didn’t stop Darice. Or Molly—who had little say in the matter since she was the six-month-old.

We were living on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. Darice’s husband was an Air Force firefighter and worked twenty-four hours on, followed by twenty-four hours off. He was at work defending his country that night, the big chicken, so that left the following cast members:

My daughter, Darice (still fresh [and tender] from a C-section)
My granddaughter, Molly (the reason for the C-section)
Me, (the old mom and grandma)
Our black lab, Maestro
Four cats—Scully, Graham, Deucy, and Maple
Our rabbit, Birch, and
a handful of hermit crabs.

You’ll need a little background on our pets. Scully, a gray tabby, had household seniority and as such, scorned everyone else in the house (me included). Her mother, Darice, was the only one she listened to. 

Maestro was next. She usually kowtowed to Scully, but had little patience with the riff-raff that followed her own arrival to the household. 

Deucy, our black cat, was Darice’s cat from long before she married Ron and had actually lived with Darice the longest. She joined our blended household when I did. Deucy was pretty much out of it as far as hearing anything or doing much besides sleeping. 

Maple, a beautiful calico kitty, was my kitty and joined our family a few years before when we lived in Mississippi. Maple was (and still is) the quintessential scaredy cat. I once dropped a candy wrapper on the floor, and we didn’t see her for four days. We found a new rug for the kitchen, and Maple jumped four feet from the dining room carpet to the tile beyond the rug for the rest of the time we lived there. 

The rabbit, Birch, lived in his own little habitat, and had a fairly good relationship with everyone else, but hated noise. 

The hermit crabs were incredibly quiet, but ugly as all get-out when naked. Don’t ever look at a naked hermit crab. They’re bad enough in their shell; without it they’re just pitiful.

Then there’s Graham. We found Graham in a drainage ditch on base. It was springtime and the bears were out from their winter hibernation and hungry. If we hadn’t brought him home, he’d have made a tasty treat for one of the black bears that wandered around base. Trouble is, we had no idea of Graham’s history. He appeared to be a loving, sweet little gray tabby, much like Scully (without the loving and sweet part), and we had to learn about his idiosyncrasies as life went on.

We lived in base housing, and this particular house had the kitchen toward the back of the house, and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The stairway from upstairs spilled out into a front hallway that also housed a half-bath and entrance to the living room and dining room through which you had to pass to get to the kitchen and bonus room in the back of the house. Now about the half-bath: you know how Barbie has that motorhome? Yeah, the pink one. Remember that little bathroom in the back? Take the actual size of Barbie’s bathroom--you know, that area about 3" by 3"--cut it in half, fill it with cold, hard, head-breaking porcelain stuff, and you’ve got an idea what our half bath was like.

Anyway, that night I was in the kitchen when I heard a never-ending shriek followed by baby wails. I dashed from the kitchen, took a left at the dining room for the straightaway through the living room, and just as I was in the left turn to get to the finish line, Maestro, the black lab, slammed into me. I fell to the floor and rolled around like a bowling ball. In the meantime, Darice is still hollering, the baby is screaming, and I’m trying to figure out what happened. “What’s wrong?” “Are you hurt?” “Is Molly hurt?” and on and on in that vein. Darice stopped hollering long enough to holler at me and said (at the top of her lungs), “I fell down the stairs!”

“What?” (More out of incredulity than not hearing her, although Molly’s squalling and Maestro’s barking weren’t helping any.)

Darice answered, “I. FELL. DOWN. THE. STAIRS!” (What I didn’t hear, but what I suspect she was trying to tell me was, “You moron. I’m at the base of the stairs with Molly in my arms. She’s screaming. I’m screaming. What do you think happened? And quit rolling around on the floor like a bowling ball.”)

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Apparently, she fell down the stairs, and took Molly with her. Not the best plan, but nevertheless, that’s what happened. I stumbled upward with Maestro hopping around like a jack rabbit in front of me, regained my balance, and started toward Darice. She was clutching Molly close to her, who, aside from yelling her head off, looked perfectly fine. Just as I was about to reach them, Graham took it upon himself to settle the dog down by jumping up onto her back, claws extended, to … you know, kill her. Okay, we discovered our first idiosyncrasy. Graham doesn’t like it when people scream. Go figure.

This attack wasn’t looked upon kindly by Maestro, who started to howl and buck like a bronco. I was afraid they were going to jump on Molly, so I took the humane and thoughtful pet owner path and stuffed them both into the half-bath, not easy considering its size and their fury, slammed the door, and let them sort it out themselves. There was blood—lots of it—on me, on Maestro, on Scully.

Darice (who is now a licensed vet tech, but has always loved animals) was horrified. She knew that when cats get into that “kill” mode, it literally means they will fight to the death with the first breathing thing they happen upon. Maestro was the unlucky thing in her path. We still don’t know who would’ve lived and who would’ve died, but Darice didn’t wait to let them figure it out themselves. I took Molly, and Darice went into half of Barbie’s half-bath, and pried them apart. Once she tore Graham off Maestro’s back, she tossed him into the laundry room (directly at the base of the stairs), slammed the door shut, and ran back to inspect Maestro. She had puncture wounds, but they weren’t fatal, and she was able to wash and disinfect them. We let Graham stew a while in the laundry room. When we finally released him, he meandered out, meowed for food, rubbed against my leg (and did not apologize to me or Darice for our multiple cat gashes), with nary a thought of killing anyone.

Maestro visited the vet the next day for a shot of antibiotic. We didn’t see Maple for a week, an Birch the rabbit thumped his back legs in displeasure throughout the following day. Deucy, being deaf, had missed it all, and Scully didn’t lower herself enough to have an opinion one way or the other on the behavior of the peons that shared the house with her (animals and humans). The hermit crabs survived, although all but one have since died. We’re not sure just how much the trauma of that night contributed to their eventual demise.

Molly didn’t have a scratch on her, and survived her first tumble down the stairs beautifully. Darice, though covered in cat scratches, horrified at what happened, and suffering from a nearly-opened-up C-section scar, also survived. Maestro never held it against Graham, who seems to have completely forgotten his appalling behavior. That leaves me. I’m fine, although I’ve noticed I tend to fall down and roll around like a bowling ball more than I used to.

Laughing with the Lord #4

Welcome to #4 of Laughing with the Lord! Wondering what makes God smile has long been a burning question for me. I know He smiles and laug...