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Writer of fiction that reflects the light of Jesus. Sometimes the grit mixes with beauty to make up a picture of this life. That's where my fiction lives.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review of Dance of the Dandelion

Dance of the Dandelion by Dina Sleiman is an unusual book. It's set in the Medieval times. The character, Dandelion, makes major mistakes. She gets herself into scrapes and dangerous situations...and then, guess what? There's redemption. I don't want to tell you about the redemption. I want you to be surprised. But I can tell you this, it wasn't what I expected. 

So, why is this unusual? Well, let me tell you!

Very few Medieval books are being published in the modern market. Why not? I don't know. But I am very glad that White-Fire Publishing did take on this book. It is beautifully written and the setting is perfect. Dina did her research and truly understood the time period. 

Dandelion gets herself into lots of trouble. Man trouble. Several times. She falters. Falls into temptation. And because of her sins, she experiences major destruction in her life. The Christian market is sometimes wary of these topics. But Dina certainly charted some territory that is often hedged. The great thing? She doesn't glorify any of it. In fact, the consequences occur quickly after Dandelion falls. 

Dandelion's redemption is nothing short of moving. She learns the deep, strong, never-ending love of God. Her redemption isn't found in a man (like all too many novels). Instead, it is because of the work that God had been doing in her all along. Absolutely uplifting.

Christian fiction is all about a story that uplifts, convicts and directs us to the abundant life to be found in Christ (which usually has nothing to do with money). I was delighted by Dance of the Dandelion. From the cover to the story to the author herself, this is a beautiful novel. I highly recommend this. 

To learn more about Dina Sleiman, visit her website here. To order this book, check out Amazon (this book is available as an ebook and a paperback).

** Please note: I received nothing in exchange for this review. I just loved the book and wanted to share it with you!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review of Baby's Little Bible

One of my very favorite things is to read the Bible with my kids. This is something we've done ever since they were tiny. I wish that we would have had Baby's Little Bible when our kids were babies! 

This storybook Bible comes in either pink or blue (we received the pink...which my daughter loved). I suppose my only thought about the color is that a neutral one would have been nice as well. The cover is smooth and has a little bit of padding to it. Nice for a baby. The pictures are colorful and beautiful. One issue I've had with other children's Bible illustrations is that they are often culturally inaccurate (making the characters look Anglo-Saxon). I appreciate how this illustrator gave Jesus darker skin and hair. 

The storytelling is well done. Even though this book is intended for babies, my kids (5 and 3) still enjoyed having it read to them. This isn't only a great baby Bible, it's a great Family Bible Time read! 

I think this book would be great for a baby shower gift, as a Christmas present for a young baby or even used as an "easy reader" book for older children who are learning to read.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review of "The Three Trees"

We are a family that reads together daily (often several times a day). So, when given the opportunity to share this book with my kids, I was very excited. 

The art work is beautiful. I'm a fan of folk art. All of the colors and details...there's just a lot to catch the eye! My younger kids (the ones who can't read yet), enjoyed flipping through the pages, letting their eyes move across the page to take in all the art and color and beauty. They could identify what the book communicated through the stories that the pictures told. 

The story is told in that familiar folk story voice. It uses easily understood language. Yet it wasn't at such a low level that my kids were bored. They were moved by the reading of the story. I let my husband read it aloud so that I could watch the faces of my kids. They were caught within the telling and pinched their little eyebrows together in concentration. 

The Three Trees is a traditional folktale. I've heard it before. However, coupled with the beautiful artwork, this story had more power than just through the spoken word. 

This book is a great gift. Christmas is just around the corner, and this would be a great one to give as a gift to children, art-lovers, your Church library. It would also be a great baby shower gift (books were some of my favorite from when I had my babies). 

Note: Kregal Publications provided this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review of Melanie Dobson's "Refuge on Crescent Hill"

As a fiction writer, I was delighted that I would have the opportunity to review another novel for the Kregal Publications blog tour. I felt that I would be stretched a little to read a suspense novel...and I'm glad that I did. 

Melanie Dobson's novel "Refuge on Crescent Hill" has a good pace from the first page to the last. The dialogue is natural and easy to follow, moving the story-line forward, not bogging it down with insignificance. Her characters are believable. Her narrative voice is straightforward, unpretentious, and causes pictures to fill the reader's mind. 

Here's a little bit about this novel...

 Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow but what she finds is an empty mansion 150 years old. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, Camden wonders what really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town--and her life--forever. (from the Kregal website)

I have to say, the idea of family mystery is intriguing. And getting to read a book that unfolded the mystery little by little was exciting. The concept that all secrets affect the lives of those around us was so well developed in this novel. Dobson did a great job keeping my mind moving while I read. Not only that, she kept my focus on Camden's search for the truth.

I recommend this novel. It would be great for book clubs and the reader who wants  me mystery and edge-of-your-seat literature. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review of The Story of Noah's Ark (storybook and wall clings)

I love children's books. Especially when they contain brilliantly colored illustrations. But, do you want to know who loves that stuff more than I do?

Yup. That's right. My kids. 

I received this book in the mail from Kregal Publications (in exchange for a blog review). When I opened the cardboard package, I watched my kids' eyes light up. They instantly knew that this was a Noah book. (I actually had to hide it from them for a short amount of time so that I could preview it). 

This book is beyond fun. It uses easily understood words (my kids, ages 5 and 3, had no difficulty understanding it), but it isn't a baby book either. I like this for a preschool aged book. It tells the story with Biblical accuracy. 

And, can I tell you what I really like most about it? It has wall clings. So the kids can "play" Noah's ark. I tested these clings. They are sticky enough to go on the wall. But not so sticky that they peel away any paint. They are easily removed. And they can be put back into the book for future use. 

I think this would be a great book for Christian preschool Bible classes, Sunday School and for family use. It's a great way to tell the story and reinforce with activity on the child's part. 

I highly recommend this book! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review of The World Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

This is not the cover of a typical Theology book. But, then again, this isn't your every day Biblical Worldview book. 

In this book "The World Tilting Gospel" Dan Phillips confronts sin, weak theology, wrong Biblical teaching, our identities as children of God, and on and on. All to teach us about tilting the world.

His premise is this; the early Church turned the world upside down. It was radical. Unapologetic. Heroic. And all in the Name of Jesus Christ. People were coming to the knowledge and salvation of Jesus by droves. Whole towns were either transformed or ticked off by these radical Followers of the Way. They were a group of revolutionaries. They lived drastically different lives than those outside of Christianity. They were willing to be tortured and killed brutally for their faith.

They did it all without Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, political campaigns. They didn't even have huge budgets. They did it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the cool things about having the Scriptures is that we can learn from others. We can follow in the footsteps of the "Great Cloud of Witnesses". And this book gives us examples, encouraging us to faithful living and to seek the Word of God in our lives. 

Dan Phillips knows his Bible. He's a smart guy. But, here's the really great thing; he doesn't talk over anyone's heads. This book was easy to read. He took some hefty concepts and transformed them into bite sized pieces for his readers. 

This would be a great book for a Theology class, Bible Study, Sunday school resource. And yet, it's a great one for anyone hoping to build their knowledge and understanding of what the Scriptures say about faithful living. 

This is a very great book. I hope you'll give it a read. You'll learn a lot about the early Church and how the modern Church can improve in Jesus' Name!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Review of The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women By, Danielle Strickland

When I read the title to this book, I have to admit, I was curious. So, upon the offer to read and review this book for Kregal Publications, I was intrigued. How, indeed, does Jesus empower women? I mean, yeah, He surrounded Himself with women and offered them equal compassion and mercy in a world that, otherwise, objectified or ignored them. 

But, this is the 21st Century. Aren't women liberated enough? Well, Danielle Strickland would contend that, no, we aren't. In regard to the Church, we still have a long way to go, baby.

She confronts the mentality of girls being princesses, desiring to grow up, get married and have children. You have to check out this quote...

"The popular Christian concept of a 'good woman' is someone extremely feminine, sensitive, good-looking, and submissive to a handsome husband who keeps his promises. Lovely -- if you live in Disneyland." (pg. 20)

And that's in the first chapter. 

Chapter after chapter discusses the issues of the objectification of women, inequality in the world and the Church, how women are uniquely made, how the Scriptures speak of us and that Jesus is our Liberator. One chapter is titled "Jesus the Feminist"...no getting huffy. It's a great chapter about how Jesus included women in His ministry on earth (it's a fact) and the beautiful reality that women, too, are made in the image of God. 

I found that Strickland dealt with this potentially volatile discussion with intelligence (this woman knows her Bible...and even discusses word studies to explain the translation), grace (she never once bashes men...not once) and joy (she's all about celebrating the liberation that this truth can bring). 

On a personal level, she forced me to ask questions of my past. Have I ever felt "less than" in the Church because of my gender? Regrettably, yes, I have. Many times. As a former "Children's Director" (I couldn't be a pastor because I am female), I have encountered much discrimination. From being called "honey" to being left out of important meetings and decisions to having my physical appearance "called out" (issues of size)...all of it made me feel that my ministry had less importance because of my gender. This isn't of God. 

I look forward to reading this book again. It is so packed full of ideas and thing to contemplate that one reading didn't quite "do it" for me. 

I highly recommend this book. It's great to Bible college students who are heading into the ministry (of all kinds). Wonderful for church staffs that are interested in including women in ministry (and, for that matter, church staffs that are NOT interested in including women in ministry). Important for women who are called to serving the Lord...it is encouraging that there is a place for us to serve other than the kitchen or nursery (not to say those are unimportant ministries). 

Look for this book. It's a good one. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview With Jody Hedlund, Author of "The Doctor's Lady"

First of all, I have to admit something...I'm not typically a fan of Historical Fiction. However, from the very first paragraph of Jody Hedlund's "The Doctor's Lady", I was pulled in. She writes at a good pace and her style is smooth and inviting.

I have a passion for missions. And this book reflected the history of a woman, so consumed with the love for the missionary life, that she made sacrifices and surrendered her will to God's. Now, that is something we could all learn from, right?

I've had the pleasure of exchanging some emails with Jody. She is kind and someone who I would LOVE to befriend. So, I thought that you would enjoy getting to know her a little better through an interview!

Susie: As a fellow fiction writer, I'm always interested in learning what inspires a work of fiction. What inspired you?

Jody: This book was inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836 she married Dr. Whitman, and then the next day left her childhood home and would never return for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and, at times, even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an "unheard-of-journey for females". Because of their willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many woman who would follow in her footsteps in what later would be known as the Oregon Trail.

Susie: That's inspiring. I can see why you wanted to honor the glory this woman brought to God! I like that your story is not only for entertainment and education, but that it also has a purpose. Speaking of, what message would you like the reader to glean from this book?

Jody: I hope readers are inspired to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of their dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we have to take risks and we'll experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

Susie: Sometimes when I'm writing, I picture certain famous actors playing the parts of my characters. Who would you envision playing the parts of your characters?

Jody: Dr. Eli Ernest needs to be played by Kevin Costner whose rugged, scruffy look in Dances with Wolves is exactly the way I envision for Dr. Ernest.  Eli is a man full of passion and unafraid of danger, and yet willing to learn and grow through the challenges he faces.

Priscilla White needs to be played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Priscilla is a beautiful and elegant lady with Gwyneth's looks in Emma. She's not physically strong and she's a bit naive, and yet she's determined and courageous.

Susie: Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?

Jody: Write a couple of books first and unleash your creativity. Then start reading books that explain how to write. Study techniques, practice them and keep writing. When you begin reaching a level in your writing where you think you're ready to start querying, get a critique partner to read your work, vamp up your online presence and immerse yourself in the writing industry.

Susie: Great advice. Thank you. Now I'd like to know something about you. What would I be surprised to find out about you?

Jody: I have most of the songs of Sound of Music memorized (due to watching it every year as a child). Now whenever I watch the movie, I belt out the songs at the top of my lungs, much to the listening pleasure of my children. *Grin*

Susie: One more thing that I HAVE to know...when you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jody: Of course I wanted to be a princess and live in a big castle and have a name like Rose. And I wanted to marry a dashing prince charming and ride off together in the sunset.

But alas, I soon came to understand that I wouldn't be able to grow up to be a princess, that I'd need to pick something slightly more practical. So I decided to write romantic stories about princesses instead! Of course I haven't published any fairy tales, but I have seen my dream of publication come true! (And wouldn't you know, I ended up marrying a prince charming!)

Susie: Thank you, Jody!

Hey, readers! Jody has very generously offered to award one of you with a FREE copy of "The Doctor's Lady"! Just comment on this post for a chance to win!

And, to entice you, here is the book trailer!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review of Across the Wide River by Stephanie Reed

I don't usually read historical fiction. And I tend to not choose books written to a teenage audience. However, when given the opportunity to review Stephanie Reed's Across the Wide River I was happy to break those two habits.

If you know me, then you know how involved I am in the modern day Abolitionist movement. I'm a firm believer that if we're to end slavery now, we need to look back at how the first Abolitionists did it.

And that is why I wanted to read this book.

The Rankin family (who were true, real life Abolitionists in Kentucky and Ohio) are the first house on the Underground Railroad many years before the Civil War. Son, Lowry leads the fugitive slaves to the next stop toward freedom in Canada.

What impressed me the most, and what I believe Reed wanted to convey, was the dedication that those along the Railroad had for the freedom of others. They continued, many nights of the year, to harbor and transport slaves as they kept up their farms and jobs and education. This was no small task. Yet their devotion to freedom was so strong that they made sacrifices for others.

While I would have loved to learn more about the slaves and their lives, I found that this book taught me much about those helping them escape. This would be a fantastic book for a teenager who would like to learn more about the Abolitionist movement of the 1800's. It would also be great for reading lists in high school history classes and for homeschooling families.

I hope that you'll check out the book trailer for Ms. Reed's sequel The Light Across the River.

If you're interested in learning more about Stephanie Reed and her books, please visit her website


Kregal Publications provided me with a free copy of the above book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review of Lisa Samson's "Embrace Me"

About 2 years ago I'd given up on Christian fiction. It seemed that every time I went to the Christian bookstore and perused the fiction section I found the same book. Over and over. Different covers, different titles, different authors. But the same book. I believed there was a formula that all Christian fiction books were required to follow. And it didn't appeal to me.

Well, apparently, I wasn't looking closely enough.

One day I decided to give the fiction section another look. What I found that day intrigued me.

The cover of "Embrace Me" is gorgeous. Yes, I did judge this book by its cover...and it worked out for me. A circus tent and just a curve of a woman wearing a green dress.

"This doesn't fit the formula," I thought.

I read the back.

"Biting and gentle, hard-edged and hopeful . . . a beautiful fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption.When a "lizard woman," a self-mutilating preacher, a tattoed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster . . . and improbably close to grace."

I bought the book. It was the kind of novel that you read slowly, knowing that far too soon it will be finished. I felt an instant connection to the characters. Lisa Samson writes vivid people into her stories. The kind that feel like friends. 

Lisa also wrote in a couple of twists. It isn't easy to really surprise some readers (especially readers who are also writers). However, I was surprised twice while reading. It was fantastic. And, nope, no spoiler here. You'll have to read the book for yourself.

"Embrace Me" has a magical feel to it. I just recently re-read it, still feeling that surreal, fable-like nature of the novel. And yet, it's also so raw, real and relevant. That's a balance that Lisa Samson does so well.

I love this book. My first copy of the book was borrowed by a friend. She passed it around to others. I have no idea where that book is. So, I bought a second copy. I fully intend to share that one as well.

I highly recommended "Embrace Me". It will surprise you, convict you, make you think. But most of all, it will help you to understand the love and redemption of Jesus a little more. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Periwinkle Peacock is Still Flying!

Hey there!

I've been giving blogging a serious bit of thought. I love my fiction/short story blog at www.susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com , in fact, things are going really well over there. But I missed blogging here, too.

What to do. What to do.

Oh! I know. This blog is going to be for reviews. Books. Movies. Food. You know, things that I experience. Then I'll tell  you what I thought of them.

Sound like fun? I think so.

First review will be next week. The book will be "Embrace Me" by Lisa Samson.

Oh...and, by the way, I'm not going to be one of those reviewers that retells the WHOLE story. Blah. Does anyone really enjoy reading reviews like that?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I've moved

Hi, Friends!
First of all, thank you for reading my stories. I can't tell you how amazing it has been to know that I have such kind people reading my work! I appreciate your encouragement and support.

Second, I've moved to a different blog. You can find me at


I have one story up (one you may have already read) just to have something to read. I'll be posting short fiction every couple days or so.

This is an exciting move for me because the web address has my name in it. That is really something cool for me.

I hope to see you over at the new blog!

Love and blessings! You guys rock!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

After the Break (short story)

We sat in his junky red car drinking slushies. It was still so hot outside even though it had turned to fall and all the leaves were blazing orange. We were parked outside my apartment, the apartment that would be ours after our wedding in four months and six days. He flipped off the radio and turned his body toward me.

"I think we should see other people," he said. "It's over."

I blinked. A couple times. My body went numb.

"You had to have known this was coming," he said. "I don't love you."

"But, we have a date. A church. My dress," I said. "I'm not letting you go."

"There's someone else. You can keep the ring. I don't care. Sell it or throw it away. Just don't wear it anymore."

I spilled the slushie on my leg. Melty purple syrup and water flowed on my jeans. He reached over to catch the cup or brush off the mess.

"Don't touch me!" I screamed. "Just don't ever touch me again!"

I swatted at him, smacking sounds from my hands on his face and arms.

"I gave you everything! And now...now you can just push me away?" My voice was low and quavering.

"Just get out of the car," he said. Cold, hard, iron. "Get out."


"Samantha, you have to get out of bed," my mom said over the phone. "Life goes on, honey."

"But I don't want it to."

"You have to let it." Her sigh was loud enough to hear through the receiver. "It's been two weeks. It's time to start over."

"That's it, huh? Just start over?"

"Yup. That's life, Sam."


Tearing up his pictures gave me a strange feeling of victory. Burning them was even better.


I wept like crazy. Regret set in over destroying the pictures. So much of my life reduced to a cup full of ashes in my grill.


He called me. Asked me if I could get lunch with him.

"To talk."

"No," I said.

"What? You hate me now?"


"Don't your remember anything good from us? We had some good days."

"I can't think of a single thing that was good."

"Not even one?"


I hung up. That felt good.


He always hated tattoos. Said they looked "trashy".

I went with a few friends and got a strawberry on my ankle. It was the only one I could afford.

It was the stupidest thing ever. But it was a mark of my freedom.


Danced at my friend's wedding. He was there with a pretty girl on his arm.

I hid in the bathroom for the rest of the reception.


 "Hey, Sam," him on my voice mail. "I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you. I kind of miss you. Man, we had some great times. Call me."

My heart ached in different ways. I never thought that could happen. I still loved him. I was starting to hate him.


"Do you love her?" I asked. He slumped in the booth across from me. I finally agreed to meet him.

"I don't know." He wore a hat. He never wore those when we were together. He was also wearing cologne. Another new thing for him. "Maybe I do."

"I can't believe you."


"One minute you miss me, the next you love her. Make up your mind."

"I don't miss you."

"But on the phone..."

"Don't go making little accusations."

"I'm not."

"It's none of your business."

"You're right."

We sat. It was so quiet. Our untouched meals went cold we sat there so long.

"I got a tattoo," I said.

"That's so stupid. You know how I feel about those."

"Well, it doesn't matter anymore does it?"

Walking out of that restaurant, I felt strong. I walked away from what weighed me down.

I no longer needed him. I no longer cared what he said or how he looked at me or who he was with.

I was free.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Not the end (short story)

Misty walked among the shelves of books. She was overwhelmed. So many different books. The store was huge.

"Can I help you?" asked the cute, skinny girl behind the customer service counter. Her lips smiled, but not her eyes.

"Um. Yes. I'm looking for a book," Misty said.


"Well, I guess I don't know which one, exactly."

"Okay. Are you looking for fiction or non-fiction?"

"I guess non-fiction. Something about...well...weight loss."

"Sure." The girl typed something into a computer. "This way."

She led her through the rows, more quickly than Misty could move. She eventually caught up, trying to catch her breath without gasping.

"Here's the weight management books," the girl said. "Do you need anything else?"

"Yeah. A cookie."

The girl laughed, put her hand gently on Misty's shoulder. "You're too funny. Have a nice day."

Misty was alone, trying to figure out which celebrity had the best diet plan. No flour. No sugar. No carbs. No meat. No coffee.

Maybe I'll just have to stop eating all together, she thought.

Her cell phone rang.

"Hello, Heather."

"Hey, Mom. What are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing." She took a book off the shelf. On the cover were the bronzed abs of a young woman. "Hey, what do you think of joining a gym with me?"

"I don't know. It's kind of expensive."

"You're right."

"So, did you and Dad get things figured out?"

"What do you mean?" The book was full of pictures. Women laying on their backs, elbows pointing at knees in a crunch, faces radiant with smiles.

"You guys were fighting all night."

"Oh, honey, it was nothing. You know."

Heather was so quiet on the phone that Misty thought it cut out. "Heather? You still there?"

"Yes." She sniffled. "I'm here."

"Are you crying?"


"Hon, we'll get it all worked out. I promise."

"I heard him talking about that woman."


"Why would he do that?"

"I don't know."

The women in the book were perfect. Perfect legs, abs, boobs, smiles. Misty was not. Legs striped by purple veins. Stomach slack and full from three pregnancies and years of secret eating. Boobs...well...they needed a whole lot more support than they used to. Her smile. What smile?

"Is he going to lose his job?"

"Yes. I think so."

"Good. I hope he does."



"This is going to be harder on him than on me."

"Whatever, Mom."

"Listen, I have to go. I'll bring home some burgers and we'll talk some more."


"I love you, Heather."

"I know."

Misty hung up the phone.

She realized that she'd lost her husband. To another woman. A woman who was 20 years younger. Who was thinner and prettier and sweeter. That woman dressed and put on make up and did her hair so much better than Misty.

"You've really let yourself go," he'd said the night before. "I just can't be attracted to you anymore. Lord knows I've tried, Misty."

"Just tell me what I have to do," she said to him. "I'll do whatever you want."

"Become just like her."

The memory of his words stabbed her heart all over again.

"You know you can't be a pastor anymore if you leave me."

"Don't threaten me. You're always doing that."

"No, I'm not."

He raged at her. Screamed about her flaws, her mistakes in life, her occasional selfish moments. She hadn't cried. She just sat there, in shock.

Then he left.

"Have you found what you needed?" the customer service girl asked. "I could recommend one if you'd like."

"No. But thanks. I think I'm okay."

"Okay." The girl lingered. "Hey, I hope this isn't weird or anything. But, you have the prettiest eyes."

"Oh, thank you." Misty lowered her glance.

"I'm serious. You really do. They're kind eyes."

Misty smiled. Her heart warmed a small bit.

"You have no idea how I needed to hear that."

"Well, I hope you have a nice day."

I won't, Misty thought. But it's not the end of the world.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh how I love chocolate!

(This is a contribution to The Diaper Diaries for her "Things I Love Thursdays")

Friends, I have an addiction. There are days when it's all I can think about. My skin crawls without it. I start drooling all over my very unfashionable clothes at the mere mention of it. I love...

...chocolate (just in case you had no idea what that picture was...and, in that case, I worry about you). 

Mmm. Just the way it melts on the tongue. How it relaxes me and then hypes me up with all the sugar and caffeine. It has the power to tap into all my dietary weaknesses (especially when there's a salty flavor involved). 

But here's the problem.

This is who picks the cocoa beans that go into most chocolate that goes into the mouths of Americans. But he looks so happy, right? 

I'm sure he's not. This child is a slave. He won't go to school. Won't get paid for his long hours in the fields. Will never even taste the candy that his labor makes possible.

When I heard about this child and the other thousands like him...well...let's say I thought my chocolate eating days were over.


Then there's this...

Green & Blacks is a Fair Trade Federation company. They only use cocoa in their chocolate that has been sourced ethically and responsibly. They, in fact, vastly improve the communities from which the cocoa is harvested (which is, by the way, in the Dominican Republic...which makes my heart even happier). 

But...how does it taste? Is it actually any good.

Oh, sister (or brother...I don't know who's reading this), the flavor is leagues beyond anything you can get at the gas station. 

This is one thing that I love...not just because it is delicious and wonderful...but also because it is a better choice for the world in which we live.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Compassion (a short story)

I hate doing my grocery shopping at night. Seems that's when the really strange people come out of the corners and wander the store. I never feel quite safe walking around the produce and deli sections. Always have to keep my hand on my purse. You never know what one of those people will do.

"Hey, Mom," my teenage son says to me about five minutes ago. "I need four dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale tomorrow."

And guess who doesn't have nothing in her cupboard to make his cupcakes.

"Make the boy get the stuff," my husband grumbled. "He gotta learn."

"He wouldn't get the right stuff," I answered. "I don't know nothing about baking."

"Suit yourself."

I put on my raincoat and drove the four miles to the super market.

"Mama! Mama!" a little girl is screaming from the cart. Her mother, or at least I think it's her mother, is on the other side of the aisle looking at the canned vegetables.

Somebody's gonna come along and snatch that kid right up and that mother wouldn't even know what happened. Probably wouldn't care neither. Except she wouldn't get her food stamps no more. Leaches on society. Should all have to get a job. Working flipping burgers is better then taking money from the government. Shame on them.

"Mommy!" That little girl's got some lungs on her.

"What?" her mother says. She don't really care what her kid needs.

"Mommy, I'm hungry!"

"I'm getting you something. We'll eat in just a few minutes."

"I want chicken nuggets! Or a taco!"

"We ain't gettin' nothin' like that."

"But I want it!"

That kid starts carrying on like she been slapped across the face. Probably would do her some good. That's the problem with people these days. They don't punish their kids. Just want to be their best friends. A good whipping never hurt nobody.

"We ain't gettin' no junk tonight, April. So shut up about it."

How dare she talk to her little girl like that. I just about tell her off about that one. What kind of mother uses such language? I have half a mind to shake some sense into her.

That mother takes three cans of green beans in her hands. And, I swear, she puts them right into her purse. I kid you not. She looks up at me. She knows I seen her. She rushes over and pushes the cart and the little girl away from me.

I ain't letting that go. No, sir. I take off after them. What right she got to steal them green beans? And right in front of her child. Ain't right at all.

I peek my head around the corner and watch that woman slip a can of tuna into that purse. And she don't stop there. Spam and crackers and a couple apples. I follow her all over that market. She sure does have a big purse.

"Hey, there," I say, pulling aside a woman in a red polo shirt. "You work here?"

"Yup. Can I help you?" she asks.

"Sure can. You see that woman there. The one with the screaming kid?"

"Yes. But, ma'am, I don't feel right telling her to keep the girl quiet. She's just a tired little child. We see it here all the time. They'll leave soon enough."

"No. That ain't the problem."

"Well, then, what is the problem?"

"See that big ol' purse? She been packing it full of food. She's shop lifting."

"Oh, my."

"So, go get her."

"Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate your concern. I'll go talk to the manager."

I go to the bakery. There are all kinds of cupcakes there. Might as well just pick up them. It'll save me lots of time. I get myself a couple doughnuts to eat myself. I done a good turn today. Doughnuts are a good prize for me.

"No! Please!" A screaming voice from the other side of the store. "I'll pay for it. Just let me pay for it!"

"Ma'am, we can't have no one stealin' from us." I'm guessing that's the manager.

"But they'll take April. Put her in a home."

"I'm sorry, lady. But that ain't my problem."

"Here. I'll give you all the money I got in my wallet. It's more'n enough to pay for everything."

"Listen, if you had the money to pay, then why'd you think you should steal this stuff?"

"Cause that's all I got. How am I supposed to pay for rent and food? I ain't got a job."

"Shame on her," I say to the cashier as she scans the code on my cupcakes.

"Happens all the time." The lady at the counter pushes buttons to ring up the doughnuts. "These look yummy."

"Yeah. I got me a weak spot for sweets."

"Don't I know it. I got this gut to prove it." She hands me the bags. "That'll be $17.65."

"I gotta write a check out."

The manager's pulling the shop lifter toward his office. April's walking next to her, tugging on her hand.

"Mama? Where we going? I wanna go home." April's voice is so much smaller now. She's so scared.

"I don't know, baby," her mother weeps. "Just don't be scared. I'll take care of everything."

"But I don't wanna go with no one. I wanna stay with you."

"I know it. I know."

"I'm still hungry, Mama. We ain't had nothin' to eat."

"I know, baby."

"Can't even feed her child." The cashier clucks her tongue. "What kind of monster. Probably spends all her money on drugs."

"Probably." I feel my heart breaking a little. Ain't never felt so bad about doing the right thing before.

I tear the check out of my wallet and hand it to the woman. "You need my license?"

"Naw. You're good." Her drawer slides out and she puts the paper check inside. "Have a good one."

I have to walk past the manager's office to get out to my car. He's in there with the woman and her girl. Both is crying and carrying on. It makes my stomach feel sick. I ain't gonna be able to eat them doughnuts now.

April looks out the door. Her little girl eyes is so red and her mouth is so turned down. I can't stand it no more. I look away.

Them doughnuts ain't a good thing for a little girl to eat for dinner. I tell that to myself. But she ain't got nothin' else to eat. And the police'll come and who knows where they gonna take her.

"Hey, little girl," I call with my gentle voice. "I got something for ya."

She looks up at her mother.

"I'll bring it to you. You stay put."

I walk in and hand her the two doughnuts. She don't smile. I never expected that.

I also never expected how hard I'd be shaking as I walk out to my car.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seven days late (short story of pregnant vengeance)

She walked...no lumbered...no waddled into the coffee shop, her round and extended tummy upsetting the newspapers on the counter.

"I need a double mocha and a blueberry scone," she said, her voice desperate.

"That mocha's decaf, right?" the kid behind the counter asked.

"No." Her voice was sharp. "I want a double freaking mocha. Full strength! Lots of whip! Chop, chop!"

"But don't you think that would be bad," he said, snotty tone behind his words. "I mean, in your condition?"

"And what exactly is my 'condition'?"

"Um, really?" He looked at her stomach. "It's kind of obvious. And I'm not giving a highly caffeinated drink to a pregnant woman. We have plenty of fruit juices."

She reached both of her swollen hands across the counter, taking the young punk by the collar of his annoyingly peach polo shirt. She pulled his skinny, pimply head close to hers.

"Listen, you little idiot, and listen closely. I want that coffee. I have gone forty weeks obsessing over everything I've put in my mouth, terrified that I would damage my little baby. But no more. Oh, no. No more. I haven't had a single cup of coffee, not even a sip of wine. Do you have any idea what that does to a person? I've stayed away from tuna and feta cheese. Don't even get me started about how many times a day I have to pee!"

"I'm sorry, lady..."

"You're sorry? Are you really?"

"Yeah." Gulp. "I really am."

"Then get your saggy pants wearing booty over there and steam that milk!"

"Okay. Thank you."

She released him, rubbed her hand across her belly and whipped her hair around. "Don't forget that blueberry scone."

"I'll be right on that, ma'am." He scampered to create her drink.

"Reina!" a woman from across the shop called. "Is that you?"

Reina swung her pregnant body around, knocking over the plate of cookie samples.

"Oh my goodness!" she squealed. "Leslie!"

The woman hugged. The boy behind the counter peeked over the whipped creamed mocha, marveling in her ability to go from homicidal to bubbly happy all within 5 seconds.

"Ma'am," his voice quivered. "Your mocha and scone."

"Oh, thanks! How much?"

"Don't worry about it. It's on the house."

"How sweet of you!"

"So," Leslie said, putting her hands on her hips, accentuating her thin waist-line. "What's new?"

"Not too much." Reina answered. "Gosh, I haven't seen you since college!"

"I know! I didn't even know you were expecting. How exciting. Who's the father?"

"Eddie Market."

"Eddie. As in, Eddie that I used to date? That Eddie?"

"Yup. This is our first."

"How about that." The smile left Leslie's face. "When's your due date?"

"Oh, last week. I'm a little overdue."

"My goodness, Reina. Shouldn't you be home with your feet up?"

"Nah. I feel fine."

"Well, look at you. All up and going and carrying twins."

"Um, I'm not having twins."

"Are you sure?" Leslie looked directly into Reina's. There was some kind of attitude set in her face. "You're pretty big for just one baby."

"You think so, do you?" Reina put an edge on her voice.

"I do." Leslie challenged. "Isn't your doctor worried that you've gained too much weight?"

"No. She thinks I'm doing just fine."

"Well, I think you should probably lay off the scones." Leslie puckered her lips and cocked her head. "Don't you think?"

Reina's fist connected solidly with Leslie's left eye. She picked up her mocha and scone, stepped over Leslie and found a table.

She sipped the perfect mocha and felt her baby bump around her womb. It made her smile.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Letting Go (a short, short story)

It's this time of year I'm always surprised by the bundles of lilacs that seem to have bloomed overnight. The lavender aroma shocks me with beauty.

They were my sister's favorite flower.

"This is what heaven will smell like," she would say, sitting on the porch of our childhood home. "Close your eyes, Ginny. Just smell the air."

"How do you know?" I'd ask. "You been to heaven?"

"Oh, shut up, you sassafrassy."

"They are pretty, though, Betty. Let's cut some for mama."

We would fill old jelly jars with water and snip lilacs, setting them on the window panes all around the farmhouse. We knew that the bushes would only hold the blooms for a few weeks before they would wilt. Betty couldn't stand to see them wasted.

Years later, after marriages and kids and divorces, Betty moved into the old house with me. Mama and daddy were gone for a long time by then. My kids were all making families of their own. I was glad to have my sister with me.

"Ginny, I'm sick," she told me. "I can't live alone anymore. I need help."

I set up a room just for her, on the main floor and with plenty of sunlight through the windows. I papered the walls with a lilac print, had lavender carpeting put in. It looked just the way I thought she'd like it. I even transplanted a lilac bush right outside so she could look out at it whenever she desired.

She only lived in that room for three months. After she died I kept the room exactly as she'd left it. I didn't even have the heart to move her slippers from the foot of the bed.

Every once in awhile I still go and sit in her room. The bed remains unmade from when the mortician came for her body. I try to pull the sheets off the mattress, so I can wash them. But something prevents me. That rumbled bedding and crushed pillow are all I have left of her.

It's all I have of anyone.

In-home nurses lived with us, around the clock, for the last two months that Betty was here. They fed her, bathed her, looked after her. All I could do was stand and watch. And that last day, it took so long for her to pass.

"It would help her if  you told her it was okay," the nurse told me in the kitchen. "I think she's holding on for you."

"Oh, she wouldn't do that," I answered. "She isn't even sure of what's happening."

"Well, I don't know about that. They say that the hearing's the last thing to go."

"What do I say, then? Go on and die?" The force in my voice startled me. "I can't do that. No. I won't."

And I didn't. I just sat and watched her dying. It took hours, longer than I ever imagined. Then finally, it was over. My body was paralyzed in the chair by the window in her room.

Now I sit in the chair again. Sometimes I'll talk to her. I don't know if she can hear me. I really wish she could.

"Betty, I'm sorry. I should have let you go," I say it out loud. "It was selfish of me. I was just scared."

I look out the window. The lilacs have just started to bloom. I saw the buds a few days ago. The aroma, rich and familiar, follows me through the yard.

"Is it true, Betty?" I ask the empty room. "Does it really smell like that? Because if it does, then you're in a good place. And if that's the smell then I can only imagine how great everything else is."

I stand up, walk across the soft floor. Without meaning to, I kick a slipper with my foot. Something inside me tells me that it's okay.

"When you came here, I thought we'd have more time. I guess I just wasn't ready to be alone again. It wasn't right for me to lose you so early."

Bending over, I pick up both slippers. A stabbing feeling moves through my stomach. It passes and I've survived it.

"But if you're okay, then I need to be happy for you. And I believe that you're better now."

The wind is tossing the lilac blooms ever so slightly on the other side of the window pane. The window moves stubbornly as I push it up and open. I breathe in the fresh air.

"Good-bye, Betty. I'll always miss you. But I'll see you again real soon."

The case slips off the pillow with a smooth movement. It falls in a heap on the floor.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I need your help.

Hello, Blog Friends!

First, I want to thank you for reading my blog. I can't express to you how deeply moved I am that anyone would take the time to read what I've written. It's unbelievable humbling. I appreciate it. I also am so very thankful for those of you who have referred Periwinkle Peacock to others. That encourages me to move forward with this project.

That being said...don't worry, this isn't bad...I need a little advice from you. You get a say in the direction of this blog (for the time being at least). I would like to ask you what you want from me.

No, I can't give you a million dollars.

Sorry, no flashy giveaways.

What I need to know is this -- what do you want me to write?

I've written both fiction and non-fiction, serious and funny (or, I hope that a few were comical...at least the one's I intended to be). I enjoy writing in each of those styles. However, I wonder if switching it up like I have leaves the blog unfocused.

So, what do you think?

All fiction?

All creative non-fiction?

A little bit of both?

I'm open to your ideas. I want to hear what you think. I will read your input and make up my mind accordingly.

Thank you again, Dear Reader Friends!

Blessings on you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts at 11:52 pm

I just checked on my kids. They're sleeping peacefully, snuggled up with bears and dolls and cats. The boys are under their soccer quilts and my daughter is under the pretty pink blanket. They are getting so big. Kids just seem to grow up too fast.

Being a mama has proven to be the best blessing in my life. And being able to parent alongside my husband has been beautiful. On this Mother's Day, I feel overwhelmed by the goodness of my life. And I feel encouraged because my family treasures me.

A couple days ago I heard the news that Brooke is dead. Brooke was 33...the same age as me. She was in the grade ahead of me in high school. We were on the JV Volleyball team together. She played "Liesel" and I "Mother Abbess" in "Sound of Music". We sang in choirs together, competed in vocal contests together. I loved her hair, the blonde and extra curly locks. She tried to teach me how to make mine do that to no avail.

We lost touch after she graduated. I guess that's kind of normal. I'd heard about her attempts at fame. I actually saw her appearance on "The Dating Game". Then I started hearing rumors about trouble. Jail time, failed relationships. I didn't know if everything I'd been told was true.

Then I saw her on Facebook. She wrote a few notes to people on their "walls". But I didn't send a friend request. I can't figure out why I didn't. And I feel badly about it. I'm not one to go on and on thinking "I could have made a difference..." I don't know if I really could have. But I feel badly that I didn't extend friendship to her.

And now she's gone. It's the strangest feeling in the world. She's my age. Something isn't as it should have been. I don't know what happened. Probably never will. I probably don't have the right to know. And that's okay. However, it saddens me that her life was so short.

And today I thought about her mom. Her mom must have had the worst Mother's Day she'll likely ever experience. I can't imagine her grief...and I really don't want to. How empty she must have felt today, knowing that one of her precious daughters was gone.

I know her mom loved her. She wanted the best for her daughter. She raised her to love Jesus and try to make good choices and provided for her needs.

Then how could this have happened?

I don't know. Why does anything bad happen? There are so many quick and easy answers to that...but none of them really work for me right now.

The world's broken. Yup. That's true. It's broken and painful and confusing. And sometimes it is a deep pit and it sure is hard to see the light.

But there is light. Yes. It is there. And in the moments when we can't see it we need to just remember that it is there. And sooner or later it will warm us, illuminate our way.

I hope that Brooke's mom...and dad....and sister are able to remember the light.

So, I think about my kids. They are so precious to me. And all I can do is be diligent, pray for them, love them, show them the ways of Christ.

And then I have to trust.

Even though sometimes that trust can seem impossible. Even though we don't understand early deaths, heartbreaks, disappointments, offenses; we must trust.

Every night right before our kids drift off to sleep, we sing a song that pulls its lyrics from Proverbs. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Don't worry about tomorrow, He's got it under control. Just trust in the Lord with all of you heart and He will carry you through."

Don't worry. Trust. He'll carry you through.

I believe. And I need help where I doubt.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Miss Susie Story--Skipping Work in Doug's Car

{From 1999-2010 I worked with kids...sometimes, to bribe them, I'd tell "Miss Susie Stories". I'm using them again to bribe...bribe you to "follow" my blog. Shameless, absolutely. I will occasionally treat you to these ridiculous stories...all true, some exaggerated for comedic purposes. Enjoy yourself at my expense.}

The summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school I worked at a fast food joint. Let's just say billions were served and a clown was involved. I hated that job. Massively. My manager scheduled me for the morning shift almost every day. I saw the egg substance that became the egg muffins (and I use the word "egg" loosely here, friends), smelled the incessant frying of "bacon" and "sausage" and "potatoes". And, let me tell you, customers at 7 am, pre-coffee, are evil. I don't joke about this.

I only took the job so that my friend Julie would get a tiny raise (she wanted to be a manager and recruited me to help her climb the greasy ladder of fast-food success).

Now, you need to understand, Julie was 1) blonde, 2) bubbly, 3) loved her job.  The customers loved her even when she royally screwed up their orders. When the two of us were taking orders at the counter her line was always full, customers preferred her...especially the guys.

Whatever. Less work for me.

Anyway, one night before an early Saturday morning shift I stayed over at Julie's house. We were both supposed to work the next day. And, for one reason or another (not because we were drunk or high...so don't even go there) we both decided that we didn't want to work. So, we did the responsible thing. We called in "sick" for each other.

"Hi, this is Julie's big sister," I said, cleverly disguising my voice. "Julie had a major asthma attack and will need to miss work. She is very sad about it."

Then Julie called.

"Yes, this is Susie's mom. She has explosive diarrhea. I don't think you want her working today...oh, you don't mind? Well, that's disturbing. She won't be there anyway."

Diarrhea? Really? And explosive at that. Thanks a lot, jerk.

Well, regardless of the looming humiliation of everyone at work thinking I was exploding, I was happy. We didn't have to work! Yippee Skippy!

We slept in, listened to a little Pearl Jam and drank highly caffeinated beverages until we were shaky.

"Hey," Julie said at one point. "You hungry?"

"Yeah. I could really go for a burger." I answered.


But then we realized that we didn't have a car. And that the only fast food place within walking distance was the one that we were playing hooky from. Oh, the problems that American teenagers face.

There was, however, a car parked in the driveway. A very new, very shiny, very red Beretta. It belonged to her big brother Doug. It was his favorite thing in all the world.

"Doug will let us take his car." Julie hopped off her bed and skipped down the steps.

"What do you want?" Doug asked, still...um...not feeling well from the night before.

"Dougie, we need your car."

After a lengthy negotiation he handed her the keys. We had to follow 3 rules.

1. No eating in the car
2. No drinking in the car
3. No crashing the car

Julie assured him that we would abide by the rules. And we were on our way.

We picked up value meals at a joint (the same company that we worked for) a few blocks away. Then Julie insisted that we drive past our place of work, eating our burgers and drinking our pop (or soda for you Non-Michiganders). We shoved the food into our mouths, laughing like fools at our manager for believing that we were both sick.

Then Julie turned left. But she didn't look first. I saw the other car headed for us before she did. And, being a clear thinker in times of emergency, I passed out. Before the impact.

When I woke up I saw the windshield inches from my face, caved in from the crash. All across the crinkled glass was splattered coke.

"Crap," I said. "Doug's going to kill us. We drank in his car."

Then I heard Julie screaming. "Get out! It's going to blow!" (silly girl)

I tried to move, but couldn't. I just knew that I was paralyzed. My spinal cord was severed and I would never walk again. I would have an afterschool special movie made about my life..."The Girl Who Skipped Work". A cautionary tale.

"Unbuckle your seat belt, stupid!" Julie kindly reminded.

Right. Shoot. No afterschool special.

I got out of the car, which, by the way, was turned the opposite way from where we were headed.

"Dang," I thought. "That's not good."

Then I looked up. Standing outside the fast-food place stood my boss, my coworkers and many regular customers.

"Uh oh."

Well, after being whisked away by an ambulance, spending far too long on a back board and being on "concussion watch" I was "okay".

And here's the part I DIDN'T tell the kids I taught...we totally got away with it. Seriously.

Doug (in a rare moment of humanitarianism) was just so relieved that we didn't get mangled and killed that he wasn't mad about his car. Oh...and the huge insurance check didn't hurt. He got an even cooler car.

Julie's mom was so worried that I would sue them that she bought me all the Brad Pitt stuff I could handle. Books, posters, videos. Pretty good out of court settlement, right? And the next week she let Julie drive her car so we could hang out with friends.

And, our manager was distraught that we had such a bad day...asthma and diarrhea PLUS a huge head on car accident. How terrible. She gave us the next two weeks off so we could heal. And, because of my whiplash, I didn't have to mop the dining room or clean the bathrooms anymore.

So, the moral of the story? Work ethic is important. Or don't eat and drive. Maybe don't let teenagers drive. I don't know.

What do YOU think the moral of the story should be?


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feeling Ugly At the Zoo

This morning was absolutely lovely. So, the hubster and I decided that we should take the kids to the zoo. We spend a lot of summer time at the John Ball Zoo...we're members. That's right. We are zoological members. Yeah, we're classy like that.

We got the kids dressed...er...changed (if I tell my boys that they're going to get dressed they think I mean they will be wearing dresses). We found all 6 of their shoes...an great accomplishment in our family. We got them loaded into the van. I filled two travel mugs with coffee. I got into my seat. I flipped down the mirror on the sun visor.

Shoot. I looked awful.

I couldn't figure out what looked better...my hair in a ponytail or down. It's at "that"length. You know what I'm saying. It rests on my shoulders and flips up funny because of it. As I sat in the van I couldn't decide if the flip was cute or gross.

Then I realized I was wearing a sweater that I've over-worn. It's getting pilly. But the shirt under it was short sleeved which caused two problems...1) it was kind of chilly and 2) I hate my arms. So, I had to leave the sweater on.

I was already feeling frumpy and ugly. And we hadn't even left the driveway.

One thing you need to understand about Grand Rapids kids' places...the moms really do it up. For real.  Every time I've been to the zoo or children's museum or other child-centered activities the mamas are working the hair and make-up and little clothes. Yes...little clothes.

Sometimes I think I'm the only bigger sized mom out and about. And that I'm the only one who doesn't care to poof up my quaff. Or apply three layers of eyeliner.

Here's the problem...

This is what I take to the zoo. Yeah. He's HOT. Whew. Hot. And I'm not the only one to notice.

See. My hubby has a flexible work schedule. He's got the freedom to go to the zoo in the middle of the day. And most other daddies are not at the zoo. So he's getting a whole lot of attention. 

It's important to note: he has no clue how much he gets checked out. He has no concept. He is an amazing and very complimentary husband. 

But no matter how much he tells me that I'm beautiful, I doubt it. I've actually suggested he get an eye exam.

That's not very nice, is it? Not kind to me or him. 

So, here I was, walking through the hairsprayed and made over faces...and I felt so old and ugly and fat. 

I missed out on some of the fun because I was so obsessed over my looks. No. My perceived looks. Stupid.

It wasn't until I sat on the bench outside the Chimp House, all 3 of my kids snuggling with me that I realized I was being wrong. Jeff snapped a picture of us. And he told me I was his pretty wife. 

Dang it. Why don't I just believe him? He's a terrible liar. And I could tell he was telling the truth. 

I do the same thing with God. I doubt His love. I question His motives. I look at others and wonder why I can't be like them...why God made me like this.

And all the while God is saying "You're beautiful to Me". And I question His ability to judge such a thing.


But He loves my silly self. He looks at me, shakes His head and continues to transform me. 

I'm so grateful that He (and my husband) refuse to give up on me. I'm a story that is being written, edited, published and reviewed. But in the end I think it will be a great story...

And who cares if my hair's a little messy or my arms are floppy. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Robert Frost's Bloom (short story about unity)

My Granddad planted a tree when my mom was born. He transplanted the sapling from his childhood home across the state. It was just a normal, average oak tree. But he loved that tree. 

"One of these days I'm going to die," Granddad would say. "And I want you to make my coffin out of Robert Frost."

The tree was named Robert Frost. 

Well, Granddad died five years ago. And that old tree is still rooted in the front yard. Apparently people don't just have their own coffins made anymore. We buried him in a silver casket. Far from his wishes. But what could we do?

After the funeral the family started fighting. Right there at the lunch. Soil hadn't even filled in the hole of his grave yet. They fought for five years without stopping. It was all over money and things. Stupid if you ask me. Every holiday it would start all over again. One uncle was suing an aunt over the family china. A cousin no longer spoke to his mother because of $1,000. Harsh words spoken from mouths full of mashed potatoes. Angry gestures from hands holding a forkful of beans. 

When I got weighed down by all of the fighting I would go outside, sit under Robert Frost's branches. In the summer they were heavy with leaves and acorns. In the fall they held orange and red flags that waved in the wind. In the winter the bare limbs twisted and curled their way up toward the sky. 

The family gathered for dinner on Easter. It was the fifth Easter after his death.

"I'm not trying to fight you on this, Edwin," Aunt Leigh steamed. "But you must understand. Daddy wanted us to sell the estate."

"Leigh, you're sounding awfully money grubbing." Uncle Edwin.

"But if you read the will, it clearly states what we're to do with the house."

"Exactly. He wanted us to make money off it. Do you know how much we could make by turning it into a Bed and Breakfast?"

"Now who sounds money grubbing?"

"Well," my mother. "I think it would be nice to let Elle live on the property. You know, keep it up and all that."

"Mom," I said. "I don't know that I'd like that."

"Besides," Edwin. "It wouldn't be fair. Elle getting it and us...well...I'd feel a little cheated."

"Oh, no." My mother sipped her coffee. "We'd expect Elle to pay rent."

"Well," Leigh. "I just think that you're all reading the will wrong."

"Is it an interpretation issue?" I asked. "Why is it such a problem?"

"Oh, honey. You really don't understand. You're too young."

"But, mom, I'm 35."

"Uh huh. Just leave this to us to figure out."

"You don't seem to be doing that so well now, are you?" I walked out. I wanted to sit under Robert Frost.

It felt like nothing would ever make my family get things together. They would fight over the house until that was settled. Then they would find something else to argue over. And none of it really mattered at all.

How could I tell them that I carried the next generation in my womb? It might cause more problems. They didn't approve of my husband and his family. The lima bean sized offspring didn't need to enter this family. She or he didn't deserve to watch aunts and uncles and grandparents clawing each other apart with hateful words and spite.

I walked outside. The air was sharp, just cold enough for a sweater. But the sun was shining. I tipped my face up to catch the warm glow.

The sun was behind Robert Frost's branches. I had to squint as I walked toward my sitting spot. I lowered myself, letting my back rub against the course bark. I rested my body against the solid trunk. The smell of the tree and the earth triggered my mind to memories of childhood. Climbing into the limbs, reading books under the shade of leaves, running rings around the base, leaping over roots. I closed my eyes and absorbed the silence and calm.

After a few moments my heart stopped thudding, my anxious jitters subsided. I realized that I no longer cared what happened with the money or the house or the china. All that was worthless. I just wanted to sit with my family and share memories of my Granddad. To tell stories and recite his wise words. To let the next generation in on how great a man he was. All the rest was just a vapor. It was nothing.

I looked up and saw the gold dots of bloom on the tips of Robert Frost's fingers. The hope of spring nestled in my heart.

Something new was coming.

Winnebago Man (a repost...because I really like this story)

The man in the Winnebago is staring wildly.  A Cadillac is wedge precariously under the nose of his monstrous vehicle.  Smoke is pouring out of both hoods, fluid leaking from underneath.  The woman in the Caddy is sobbing, her nose streaming blood onto her cashmere sweater.  A siren howls closer and closer. 

I walk by this mess, no time to stop.  I was due at work two hours ago, more or less.  I suppose if I stop I'd at least have an excuse for my boss.  If I just got a little blood on my jacket that would be enough to convince him. But it's leather and I really don't care if I get fired.

Two more blocks and I'll be there, at the office.  I'm almost taken aback by the enormity of steel and brick towering over me.  The street is lined by these ancient buildings.  Here no trees offer shade, no glass a soft path, only hard, cold materials.  I hate this city.

I slap the button to make the handicapped accessible door slowly easy its way open. 

"Hey, Chief."  The security guard says, "You got your badge?"

"It's at home."  I tell him.

"What's your name?"

"Uh, not Chief."

"What's your name?"  With more force.

I tell him my name.  He checks his list.

We do this everyday.  It's some sick kind of ritual.  I have my badge in my pocket.  I just like messing with the guy.  Might as well work for his paycheck.

"Go on through the metal detector." 

"Really?"  I whine.  "We gotta do this today.  I'm a little late."

He cusses me out.  I walk through the gateway of detection.  It beeps frantically.  This too is a ritual.  I remove my keys, my lighter, my badge and place them in a basket.  I walk through again.  No beep.

The guard hands me my belongs and notices my pass.  He lets out a grunt and tells me to do something that my mother warned me would make me blind.  I laugh.

He goes back to reading his dirty magazine.

"Elevator's busted, Chief."  He turns the page.

My feet slowly climb the stairs. 

"No reason to rush."  I think aloud.

The woman five steps ahead of me turns to me, "Excuse me?"

"You're excused."  I answer.

She takes the steps a little faster. 

I walk through my office, past the receptionist and into my cubical.  My square of doom.  A note is taped to my computer screen.

"Could we please met when you get in?"  Black Sharpie letters on pale yellow Post It. 

I remove it and toss it in the trash.  My computer is already on and Facebook is up.  I "poke" a few friends.  Check up on what happened in the last 15 minutes. 

Leeza is eating cookies.

Brian is glad that the sun is shining.

Ramona is angry.  (as always)

The phone on my desk buzzes. 

"Jello?"  I say into the receiver.

"Hi!"  My boss.

"I'm sorry.  Who is this?"

"Um, Thomas.  Your boss."  His voice lowers to a whimper.  "Could you please come to my office?"

"Yeah.  Just let me update my status.  Cool?"


Everything about my boss' office is small.  Small door, small windows, small boss.  He hates it.  Complains about it everyday.  I sit in one of the under-sized chairs in front of his tiny, doll house desk.

"Hey."  He's trying to be reassuring.  "What's going on?"

"Well...Leeza's eating cookies."

"Right."  He didn't listen to my answer.  "So, I'm getting this strange idea that you aren't loving your job."

"Should I love my job?"

"Yes.  I think you should."

"Oh.  Well, this is awkward."

"I know." 

Sarcasm meant nothing to this wee man. 

"Listen,"  He climbed up on his desk, not without a great deal of umph. His eyes look directly into mine.  He was concerned.   "You might be surprised to know that you're several hours late."

"Nope.  That doesn't surprise me at all."  My voice was as bland as a rice cake. 

"So, why is it that you're so late?"

"Oh.  That.  Well I guess I just got busy with stuff at home."

"Are things at home bad?"  He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows in worry.  "Are you going through relationship troubles?"

"I guess you could call it that."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Sure."  I answered, inserting enthusiasm. 

"Go ahead."

"I think I changed my mind."  I scratched my head.  "I think you should just fire me."

"No.  Please."  He begged, tears collecting in the corners of his eyes.

"You see kids like me coming in here all the time.  You had to have known this would never work out."

"I know."  He weeps.  "I just had such big dreams."

"You know I'm not going to amount to anything in the business world with my lack of respect for authority."

"It's true." 

"I'll just pack up my things and leave.  I'll turn in my badge to the security guard.  Perhaps you should have someone escort me out of the building."

The receptionist met me outside the boss' office with a box.  She's about as old as my grandma and about as mean as a shark.

"You really messed up, you know."  She barks at me and walks away.

If she had been my boss I would have worked harder, been on time.

I place the box on the desk.  I have nothing personal here; no pictures of friends or pets to take home.  I place my badge on the rolling chair and walk myself down the stairs.

The guard has his nose in that magazine still. 

"You get canned?"  He asks without looking up.

"No.  The company's paying an all expense trip to New Zealand to romp with the Hobits."

"Punk."  He puts the magazine face down on his desk.  "I gotta get your badge."

"It's at home.  I'll mail it to you."

He calls me a few unsavory names.

"I'm going to miss your ever sweet disposition."  I say, walking backwards, slapping the handicapped button again.

The air outside is fresh.  The sun is, indeed, making me glad.  My walk feels like a glide across the pavement.

The Winnebago is jacked onto a tow truck.  The Cadillac is already gone.  The man is getting into a taxi, the wild look still in his eyes.