Saturday, November 28, 2009

How Languages Touched My Life...!

Una Mexcla de Idiomas y Ideas, Parte I
A Mixture of Language and Ideas Part 1

A Rough Draft

There is nothing more beautiful and amazing to me than learning a new language! This opens the door to communication and more important, culture and better understanding to a way of life. New vocabulary provides building blocks and give insight into what is valued. I love to discover how words fit together to make a sentence! What words are emphasized? How intricate is a language? How do you pronounce it? How is it used? These are all adventures to me … and no matter how imperfect I am in repeating or writing what I hear and see, it still fills me with wonder when I learn a foreign language…

Probably the focal point of motivation for me when I learn a new language is “immediacy.” That means I can try it out right away – put what I’m learning to the test. I think it’s the same for everyone. Do I need this language to be understood right now? Is it necessary in my life? If so, why and how? Then, go to it!

I studied Spanish in high school for four years but that immediacy was not there. So the vitality didn’t exist. Like most students who study a language without putting it to use, it felt separate from my real life. Divorced, you might even say. The words sounded beautiful and I still loved how my thoughts came together, but it missed that extra leap to become an integral part of my life.

In college, I adapted my Spanish to a hands-on class of Portuguese. I used it on a mission campaign and to this day, I still remember memorized phrases. It opened the door to my communication with Brazilians for one month. What joy I felt in drinking “tinto” ( small cups of very strong coffee, similar to expresso) and eating “bocadillos!” (appetizers). Language and culture are inseparable.

When I moved to South America, Spanish danced in my head. The relevancy came back. Spanish took on a deeper beauty and sound to my ears. Although everyone could hear that my Spanish was imperfect, I still communicated and made friends. I couldn’t roll my rrrs, but the mastery of other parts of the language excited me. I started to absorb culture through my study, and when I traveled through the country, or countries that spoke Spanish I became confident.

Tomorrow, a mixture of languages and countries ...

Trying to become a focused writer!

Becoming a disciplined, well-published writer takes determination. Beyond the exhilaration and frustration, there are always rewrites and more rewrites, and then adjustments of my attitude to take on. It seems I have to be ready for many "baby steps" before I can really achieve my own goals of publishing the books I want to produce. That's okay. I believe this is the avocation that God has planned for me, and I've spent my whole life preparing for these goals. I've written and written and written some more over the years. Now I am learning to guide and polish that writing, whereas before I just poured out my thoughts, and probably my heart. So, of course, I am going to have excitement when something is accepted and frustration when something else is rejected. I think I need to look at everything that gets rejected as opportunities, and if I can find what needs work, then I'll do it and resubmit elsewhere. If I really believe in my work, and feel it's it's good enough, then I will just send it off somewhere else.

Baby Steps... so the editor accepted three out of five devotionals for the devotional book on faith. That's positive, isn't it? Yes, two got rejected. But if I look at them, I'm sure to find what they are lacking. I just have to pick myself up, and keep writing. I'm gonna work hard. I will know more of what is expected for devotional writing the second time around. I have a new deadline of December 8th so that will give me time to write some more devotionals and revise the ones that didn't get accepted. So this is a good opportunity for me to develop my skills!

But how is this going to help me get my own work published - my own books? Well, the more I write and submit to various anthologies and magazines, the more confidence I am going to feel. Meanwhile, I am going to keep working on my own pieces and becoming more disciplined. The problem I have is that I submit too few pieces and then wait. I need to keep up a steady stream of good quality writing, which means I am going to have to set deadlines, and work a lot harder. I need to become a focused writer and I need to set goals.

Okay, Lord, please show me how to do this! Help me to organize myself and set weekly and monthly goals for each of my books and to continue with my other freelance writing projects. I am equal to the challenge. You promised me that I can do all things through YOU and I am going to trust that promise. Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Girard resident gains notoriety

This article was written a few months before my father passed away. I am so happy that his work was recognized. I know that my father was passionate about his "garden" (the British word for yard- I consider these bushes more of a 'garden' thing as it takes so long to shape and prune them!). I often get anxious because my family cannot keep it up like my father did. It now gets trimmed just once every summer. I "attempt" to trim it with hand clippers to keep it looking good for the remaining months of summer. I wish I had had time with my dad to ask him questions about how to maintain it. He was so in tune and creative and knew how and when to replace his shrubs when the weather /spiders / disease damaged it. I know it was such a source of pride for him. My family would like to do more to keep it in tip-top shape... (This photo does not include the side or back yard shrubs, which dad also took great care in developing).
~ ~ ~ ~
Girard resident gains notoriety through his front yard design
Reprinted from the West County Times Journal February 2, 2006
By Becky Funk

What began as a hobby for one Girard resident has turned into a tourist attraction of sorts, enthralling visitors from as far away as Germany.
For the past fifty years, Don Bovaird has used his front yard as a pallete, sculpting his shrubbery into aesthetically pleasing shapes.
"The main reason I began to landscape was for privacy," said Bovaird, "Now I can sit on my front porch and remain private."
About five years ago, a group from Germany came to the Girard area and found themselves at Bovaird's home.
"A few of the group from Germany took pictures," he said, "And, about two weeks later, another group came over from Germany and took more pictures."
Additionally, Bovaird was featured on Dave Belmondo's "Route 66," and he mentioned that sometimes fishermen or other visitors to the area stop by and ask to take photos. "I guess I've gained notoriety over the years," he laughed. "The garden club also gave me an award awhile back."
Bovaird explained that in order to maintain the shrubbery, it must be trimmed and landscaped about two or three times a year. "I used to do it in the evenings, but, because of my arthritis, I have to have someone else do it now," he said. "It typically takes a whole day to get things looking good. "
Bovaird explained that he typically makes changes to the layout and design in the spring.
"It's taken a lot of labor for this," he said, "Not a lot of money, but a lot of work."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Flu Has Struck Our Household!

I will post "The Meaning of the Ethiopian Cross" tomorrow as I've been busy today helping my mother who came down with the flu. She woke up dizzy, then first got the sweats, quickly followed by the chills.My sister gave her some great natural medicine that seemed to knock it out of her system. It's worrisome when an eighty-year-old woman gets the flu. She called my sister to stay with her while I went to work. My sister gave her some great natural medicine that seemed to knock it out of her system. As soon as I completed marking some exams, and we knew mom was starting to feel better, my sister left on some errands and I took over. We She took it easy-ate dry toast and drank peppermint tea (which isn't much) and also had some ginger ale. We are so thankful that she is doing better.I hope she will be back on her feet tomorrow.
Until then...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ethiopian Cross

I recently received an Ethiopian cross in the mail from a good friend of mine in San Antonio who had worked in that country for some time. It was such a lovely surprise, and really cheered me up as I was experiencing a "valley" in my life at that time. My friend sent me a photocopied handout of the meaning of the cross, which inspired me to look further into the meaning.

To see what I discovered, keep an eye on this blog!

Coming Tomorrow:


Photograph of cross identical to the one received by me; taken from the following website:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting Down to Business...!

I believe I'm like my dad when it comes to getting things done. My mom was the one who made sure Dad followed through on meeting official deadlines, like taxes of every denomination; she also kept him on schedule sending out bills to his customers so they'd have money to pay their bills! I'm the same way. I've always needed a strong push to get the necessary things done. Mom has given up on me; I do have one friend that keeps me on track, and it works...eventually!

Today my to-do list was to be done! I finally changed my water filter. It was about three months overdue. I also had my track changed on the sliding closet door. It had been broken for years, but finally it bugged me enough to do something about it! Not knowing what to get to repair it, I had purchased a sliding door track (an actually fifteen foot track) but all I really needed was a small square piece of plastic that cost a couple of dollars, which I paid someone to change. That left me the job of returning the large, more expensive track. I figure if I didn't do it today, it would not get done for another six months, so I took it back to Lowe's (no receipt as it was purchased too long ago) and was awarded a gift voucher to buy something else in the store (suited me fine).

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how the day unfolded.

Since, I had someone coming to repair the closet problem, I realized that my room had to be in presentable shape beforehand. That meant I had to fold two baskets of clothing, and put my summer clothing lying on my bare hardwood floor in some kind of container. I also had piles of clothing lying around that I planned to donate to the City Mission. So that was my first project to tackle after making my bed. Folding the laundry drew my "sock dilemma" to the forefront of my mind. I am constantly losing sock matches. So I have many single socks that get set aside and eventually, a big pile gathers.

I decided this morning, "no more big pile." If I can't find a sock mate, then I will toss the sock out. In order to be certain that a mate did not exist, I had to clean out my very large sock drawer to match them all up. Then I had to separate the 'summer socks' and 'winter socks.' The winter socks would stay in my drawer. The summer socks would get stored until the season rolled around again. Did I mention how difficult it is for me to throw mateless socks away? Even after I sorted them out, I could not bring myself to toss the unmatched socks, especially the blue/black ones. I keep throwing them in the dirty clothes to wash again in hopes of reuniting a pair. I must have the cleanest dark socks in America!

I had to keep an eye on the clock because Ed, the man helping me, was to arrive at 10:30 am - and I still had to wash dishes, brush a sizable carpet in the living room by hand (my vacuum cleaner has been broken since June or July). Thank God for hardwood floors as I mostly dust mop them!

While I was tidying the kitchen, I realized I had piles of "charity pleas" waiting to be sorted out. These pleas always come with address labels, and if I don't send my donation in on time, I get second notices. So I have to check to see which envelope to use and then file my labels away, so that I am using seasonally appropriate labels on my correspondence. Some of these charities include The Humane Society, the ASPCA, the Veterans Administration of America, the Disabled Veterans, ChildFund, The City Mission, Operation Smile, this list goes on indefinitely... Once I opened my mail for the last few weeks, I had to cross out my address so I could recycle the envelopes and notices. Time was ticking away and my place still was not presentable.

Meanwhile, I had to sort through photographs I wanted hung (Ed, whom I affectionately refer to as 'my handyman' always brings his entire tool box as he knows I will have several unannounced jobs for him to complete before he leaves, and hanging pictures is one that is guaranteed to be on his list of fix-it items, he's discovered). The photo frames had to have holes drilled in them, so I set them all aside for him to deal with.

As I tidied my computer desk, I was sorely tempted to check my facebook page, and both email accounts. "Hey, if I don't get it all done, he's not gonna inspect my whole place. He's just fixing things in the kitchen, bedroom and garage." But I could hear my mother's voice saying, "Do you want him to think that you are messy?" and I most certainly did not. So after a very quick peek, I made some orderly piles on my desks then set off for the kitchen.

"Thank God he's late!" I made a face. I still had to put the dishes away (I usually let them air dry) and dust the cobwebs off a pair of Texan Longhorn steer hangers to hang my winter scarves out in the garage.

So, I rushed through those tasks and then quickly remembered to sweep the dog hair off the steps and spot wash the kitchen floor.

Buddy announced Ed's arrival just as I threw my summer shoes in the container to store along with my summer clothes. I breathed a sigh. "Time for Ed to get to work so I can cross off more to-do items on my list!"

He took each task and thoroughly completed it until he got to the photo frames. Then, he eyeballed them and tried to hide a smile. Today I also surprised him with asking him to caulk my sink. "I brought everything else--but not my caulking gun!" Finished with the ones he could do, he ran up to the hardware store for the right gadget to fix my closet track. I really appreciate Ed's willingness to fix my wrongs.

At the end, I asked him, "Ed, how much do I owe you?" I clenched my teeth, anticipating the worst, but Ed, always the gentleman said, "I have so much fun talking to you! I'll just charge you for an hour." My jaw dropped down, and I thought...Life is so good!

After Ed took off, I called my brother, "Can you take me to run some errands?" I had a Bible to buy (ordered awhile back), stories to run off for church (three weeks old), and film to develop from when my dad was still alive (more than three and a half years back!). I also had to buy a late lunch along the way...

We made an unscheduled stop to meet a friend in the hospital, so when we got home, it was late. I had to make a salad for mom, and rush to get ready to meet a friend. Today we decided to catch up ... and celebrate my birthday, six weeks after the fact! Is that any surprise?!

Dad woulda said, "Ya done good...finally!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dad and His Deer Hunting

This photo does not do my father justice. But it's the only photo we have of him with deer antlers. I don't know why...Here he looks like he recently returned home from a hunting expedition. He's a bit disheveled and smoking his pipe. But he's holding the rack he probably got that year and standing in front of the woodstove showing off his trophy. I remember that style of shirt. That was his "under hunting gear" shirt. Well, it was a "work shirt," come to think of it. Being a deer hunter combined lots of his favorite skills--tramping through the woods, climbing trees, hanging out with the guys, his eagle eye, and leaving with meat to eat through the winter and a trophy for his time!

There seems to be something that happens to men when deer season comes along. They seem happier and more independent; they have already gone to "their camp" long before they actually step foot outside the door. They are mentally preparing for their hot stews (or whatever it is they eat out at the camp), card playing, lots of stories, and early mornings as they crunch through the crusted over snow to find the first tale-tell sign of a deer...

I remember dad used to be downstairs, rifling through the drawers of his homemade workbench, pulling out boxes of bullets, and odds and ends. He would gather up "snow pants" (but I don't suppose that is the name men use for them; maybe that goes under the category of 'hunting gear) and heavy jackets, plus he'd always have a hat of some kind. He'd clean out his rifle (which he always kept in his very nice, homemade gun cabinet). Dad used to go hunting with Bud Matson mostly, and whoever happened to be with Bud. That would vary from year to year, but Bud was his hunting sidekick.

Life was good for dad during those hunting trips. He'd never be gone more than three or four days, but he would come back with a buck without fail. "I get 'em from the same tree every year" he'd grin, "eighteen years in a row." I take it that he liked climbin' that tree. I guess it was his lucky tree. I'm sure that he owned a good pair of binoculars as well. Dad always combined his skills to get what he wanted accomplished so none of us were surprised, and I think we were really quite proud of him when he came back.

I'd say, "Dad caught another deer this year." and one of my brothers would respond disgustedly,"You don't catch deers. You shoot them!" (Well, I don't do either). I would glare, and my mother would tell us to 'settle down.' I always felt sorry for the deer and had to prepare myself mentally because dad hung them from the treehouse upside down. I forget why he did that but I am sure you hunters can tell me exactly why that is necessary - maybe to let the blood drain out...?

Mom hated venison with a passion, but I loved it (though I hated the thought of the poor deer being killed). She cooked it dutifully, and we all happily ate it for months. Meatballs. Meatloaf. Deer roast. Dad was also quite generous and would give quite a bit away to his friends who were not quite so lucky to bag a deer. I'm sure my mother did not say anything on the contrary as that was less venison for her to prepare.

Once my brothers became of age, they joined him at the hunting camp each year. Well, my older brother was like me, very gentle-spirited, and did not like shooting deer so the year he went, he really didn't put his heart into it. I think he liked the camaraderie of the men though so he would go for that. My younger brother hunts to this day so I am sure that he waited for those cabin experiences with my dad with a fervor.

Looking back on my memories, I did like to hear about his skills in the woods. But I liked to see him unpack his gear more, and get ready for the winter ahead. Dad would be around a whole lot more in the cold months ahead!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bovaird wit - made to fit Model-T at Car Show

My dad loved his car shows! He found it the most relaxing way to pass a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. He and my brother, Mike often went together. It was a good time for them to bond. He and Mom went sometimes but she would get a bit bored after awhile. But she did enjoy talking with some of the wives while dad and the antique owner would "talk shop" about their vehicles. The car shows consisted of (usually) old-timers who inspected each other's cars and gabbed a lot. Dad seemed right at home in the cloth seat he'd set up near the the cars he brought to show off. He was in his element and he always had a story to tell. He also always had a way to make his vehicles stand out in the crowd.

Five or six summers back I found my dad making a sign to place in the window of his Model-T Ford during a local car show - just to generate conversation, I gather. I volunteered to type it up for him. He seemed pretty pleased about the result and taped it to the inside of his window.

This is an example of his humor on the day he showed his Model-T Ford off at the Shriner's Hospital Car Show...If you know my dad, you will appreciate its humor!

~ ~ ~ ~

This 1925 Model-T was custom built by Henry Forge for his good friend, the Shaw of Platea, who used it as a brothel.

At the beginning of the Prohibition, it was sold to wealthy Lake City industrialist, J. Pierpont Snodgrass, who added wheels and remodeled it as a gin mill and floating poker game.

With the repeal of Prohibition, it was sold to the Reverend Martin Luther Jones, who added a woodstove to the car and used it for a hotdog stand and winter revivalist meetings.

After December 7, 1941, General Dwight D. Loosenbauer conscripted the car into the army as his personal command post in Paris and South Africa. It was flown in by boat; sands were removed and a crystal ball and ouijii board were installed, whereby it is rumored he successfully predicted the end of the war and the death of Elvis Presley.

It was later purchased by a consortium of Fairview businessmen who are presently using it to transport Politicians and other Criminals to and from the Girard McDonalds.

(Please wipe feet before kicking tires!)

~ ~ ~ ~

The Perfect Fit

This piece of writing is so, so encouraging to me! I had to share it with you!
It really speaks to me on my dark days of dealing with my blindness. The days I feel no one understands what I am going through, and when I am so tired of having to be the courageous, accommodating one to others in helping them feel at ease with me. I ask myself, "Who will put ME at ease? Who will see my hurts? And this wonderful devotional filled me with courage once more. =) God understands and is there to show me how to cope...His way.

~ ~ ~ ~
The Perfect Fit
By Janet Perez Eckles, She Speaks Graduate
Proverbs 31 Ministry
August 23, 2007

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." Psalm 139:1-3 (NIV)

Devotion: So why wouldn't I jump at the chance to head to the mall when a great sale is calling my name? I imagine most folks would resist a shopping trip when blindness sets in, but not me.

A while back, my dear friend Laura called. "I'll pick you up early." Excitement splashed through her words. "There's a great sale going on and we don't want to miss it."

Although we both love a bargain, Laura knows unique adventure is in store when shopping with a blind friend. Some incidents make our cheeks burn with embarrassment; others spark roars of laughter. Either way, nothing prevents us from joining the army of bargain shoppers.

Anticipating great deals sure to make my budget smile, I clutched my friend's arm and we squeezed through isles to begin our hunt. The word "sale" added to the excitement and ignited our itch to conquer.

Laura tugged at my arm. "Look...the perfect outfit for you."

"What color is it?"

"Black and red, your colors." She placed it in my hands. "And it's on sale!"

I felt the fabric, shape, and style. Then with a clear image in my head, I smiled and added the item to the "try on" pile.

Once in the dressing room, Laura reassured me, "It has to fit you. The price is unbelievable."

I slipped it on half way and something unexpected happened. It got stuck. "Hmm... a little tight," my muffled voice begged from inside this garment. With raised arms, I struggled to squeeze my torso through.

"Keep trying. It will look great on you." Laura pulled at the sides.

My attempts to remain calm threatened to vanish with my arms locked up in the air, unable to move one inch further. "Now what do I do?"

"It's got to's your size!" Laura insisted. "Let me help you." She tugged as I wiggled and strained.

"I really think I need a bigger size," I pleaded, feeling worn out by the struggle. I longed to be double-jointed.

" pain, no gain," Laura announced. And with all her might, she gave one last yank.

" fits perfectly!"

I stared blankly, arms limp to my sides. They stung from the fabric that scraped my skin raw. I stood motionless from fatigue. Her comments of praise eluded me. My concentration drifted and I coveted Houdini's ability to get back out of this garment.

"It looks great, Janet. Turn around."

I felt her hand on the back. "Oh, there's a zipper. I didn't see it before. You have to really look for it."

"A zipper? A zipper?" I thought. What a relief!

The same painful struggle invaded my world when I faced my blindness. Feeling lost and destroyed by its horrifying grip, I had crafted my own solutions and answers, thinking they'd be a good fit.

The struggle began. I tugged, yanked and pulled to find a fitting answer for my anguish. I grew out of breath as the battle continued and anxiety squeezed at my heart and frustration left it raw. Then, when ready to give up, I stepped into the closet of my soul only to find the second hand rags of despair and frustration. But when I opened the zipper of my heart, I invited Christ into my life, and right away breathed relief from my pain.

His shining faithfulness, compassion and guidance offered a perfect garment for my soul. This gift, garnished with the accessories of His trustworthy promises, completed the wardrobe of a new life; one rich with newfound freedom. This garment with the reassurance that He created me and thus knew what will fit me. He knew the size of my pain, the color of my frustration, the fabric of my fears, and the fashion of my insecurities.

Once I opened the zipper of my heart to Him, the size of my problems and His sovereign provision were a perfect fit. No more struggling to force my own solutions. Instead, when facing difficulties, I dash to the sale rack of His faithfulness, forgiveness and provision. And to my delight, the price tag always reads "already paid for."

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your love that covers all my pain. Thank you for knowing the intensity of my struggles and for having the perfect response. May I seek Your ways rather than my own. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

The Ballad of Loch Lomond: Steeped in ‘Mist’ery

Yesterday I was in my Colombian mood; today, I've been thinking of Scotland. This is an article I wrote for a travel magazine awhile back. I researched it, and sent it off (but haven't heard anything back yet). Hope you enjoy it and learn something in the process! Any feedback is appreciated!:)

The Ballad of Loch Lomond: Steeped in 'Mist'ery

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

A drizzly mist often prevents visitors from seeing those "bonnie, bonnie banks" of Scotland's Loch Lomond clearly. In the same way, a number of different stories purported to explain the famous folksong's origin maykeep the truth shrouded in mystery forever.

You probably think you’ve never heard of lyrics of “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond,” some of which are shown above. But no doubt, you’re familiar with at least the chorus. However, if you don’t know what the song’s about, you’re probably not alone. That may be because of the unfamiliar Gaelic words thrown in or perhaps it’s that people have different interpretations of it.

In order to better grasp the meaning, it’s important to understand some basic facts about the Scottish. They revel in tales of their rich history, romanticize their beautiful landscapes, brood over their unyielding fates and rejoice over love.

It’s said this song was written by, about, or to a captured soldier during the failed Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.

Some believe an unknown soldier imprisoned in Carlisle, across the border in England, for his part in the alleged uprising wrote the song to his sweetheart. Sentenced to hang the next morning, he supposedly sang it to bid farewell to his beloved whom he would never see again. The song embraces the youthful pastimes they shared along the lake bank, and where they parted ways.

In my mind’s eye, I could picture the pair – she, fair-skinned with flowing red hair and a crown of flowers gracing it, wearing a loose-fitting dress and running barefoot. He would have a sand-tousled head of hair, a home-spun button-down shirt and pants, also barefoot. He’d be chasing her to the water’s edge and catch her in an embrace. The sun would shine down on them as they fell together in the shade of the highland trees near the edge of the lake. I imagined his regret as he recalled those lost moments while facing his certain fate the next morning. Wouldn’t the song tug at your heart?

Others believe the song came about as words probably sung by the Jacabean prisoner’s sweetheart, “Moira” back in Scotland. The belief is that the prisoner’s ghost had visited Moira in a dream and they had wandered along the moors of Loch Lomond as they used to do as young lovers. It’s said that through this dream, Moira realized she would never see the soldier again.

Along similar lines, some believe that upon his death, the warrior’s spirit was released and would be waiting for her on Loch Lomond, where they first fell in love.

The suggestion of ghosts is popular in Scotland, where whole tours take place to visit “haunts.” Wandering spirits lend credence to the idea that messages are carried to people whom they would not see again in their lifetime. So, the belief that the prisoner’s fate is relayed through the dream is readily accepted. Likewise, the idea that a spirit will go to where he / she felt happiest during their lifetime is a popular concept in Scotland.

Still others believe the lyrics suggest the sweetheart of the Jacobean prisoner had traveled all the way to Carlisle on foot to say good-bye to her lover, catch a final glimpse of his face, and beg in the slim hope of securing his release. If not, she would stay to witness his death. The “low” road is said to mean the grave for the prisoner while the “high” road refers to the girl’s return home to Scotland over land.

If you ask other Scots, they will tell you it’s commonly believed that the song represents the friendship between two soldiers. According to the story, one of the soldiers was to be executed and the other, released. As legend has it, the spirit of the dead soldier traveling by the “low” would reach Scotland before his comrade, who would be making his way back over the rough Scottish highland on foot. Spirits apparently travel faster than those in the physical world, hence, the line “I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye.’”

When you first hear this song, it seems it’s just a very popular, romantic love song set in the midst of a beautiful Scottish landscape. But the song gives us clues there’s more to it than lochs, high and low roads, getting someplace before someone else. Something larger than that is happening. The lyrics bring out deeper themes embedded within —death, parting, loss, principles, courage, friendship, loyalty, ghosts and spirits.

Which story is the real one? No one is any wiser today than centuries earlier. Myths and legends continue to surround this tale like the misty waters that gather around Loch Lomond. Historians can make their predictions, do their research, but the interpretation is still up to the listener and to the many Scots who proudly sing its lyrics and embrace it with their strong cultural heritage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recuerdos a Colombia

Here I am at the Colegio Panamericano wearing a wig and dressed up as an old woman on Halloween during my first teaching year at the school. Juile Holdridge, another teacher, is seated next to me. I taught English to pre-school through fifth grades for two years there.

If I remember correctly, the name "Bucaramanga" is taken from two words, "the Bucas" and the "mangas." I don't know if the Bucas are a tribe or what. This city is the capital of the northeastern state of Santander. It lies in the plateau (the Cordillera Oriental) of the Andes mountains. It was so scenic and had the nicest weather I remember any country having - not too hot nor cold.
I am remembering Colombia because my Colombian friend called me tonight and we spoke for an hour, and I might add, only in Spanish! Although I now teach Spanish at a local Christian school, about twenty-five years had passed since I spoke the language regularly. It was quite a challenge, therefore, to speak for such a long time tonight! It felt great!
I spoke with my friend Arcinovice. We were young women in Bucaramanga back the, and attended the same church. We had a few adventures as we traveled together to her home town of Corro Morro and back to Bucaramanga during one "puente" (three-day weekend). A great storm hit and all transport had been cancelled from the town. Massive amounts of mud covered everything. I remember stopping at a restaurant and eating. The cook actually killed a chicken in front of my very eyes. The ensuing pandemonium caused me to stop eating chicken for two years! From that restaurant , we actually hitchhiked, and ended up on a beer truck (me lying on top of the beer bottles in the back, Arcinovi sitting up front in the more respectable spot). The driver stopped every fifteen minutes to sell his wares! We did arrive back in time for me to teach on the appointed day. What a wonderful and crazy memory that trip was!
Arcinovice was always beautifully-made up and elegant, with painted nails. She dressed very fashionably. There I was, a simple, very plain gal who almost never wore any make-up, dressed comfortably and was always ready for a trip within the country. Though we were so different, Arcinovice and I hit it off and had great times together, usually along with another friend our age, Patricia.
Life seemed very simple then. I lived to travel and traveled to live. What a joy! Colombia was a dream-come-true for me. I made very little money teaching, but it cost very little to travel. It was easy-to-get-around. I had lots of people my age to travel with, and I didn't mind traveling alone if I couldn't find anyone. My church was there; I worked with the local teenagers and the five-family missionary team. I didn't think life could get any better back then...
I remembered that feeling of carefree abandon tonight when I spoke to my friend from so long ago. We spoke of our travels, the food, our friends and how the city had changed, along with our lives.
"So when will you return to Colombia?" she asked me in Spanish.
"Algun dia, me gustaria mucho. Vamos a ver." I'd like to return very much one day. Let's see.
I wonder if I will ever make it back. Can we ever return ... re-experience such visits ... such a place in time? At one time I would not have hesitated to take the next flight over. Have these last few years back home changed me that much???

Louis Hannah: The Traveler

Louis Hanna was a local hero; he was rumored to be the oldest working living firefighter at age 97. Louis meant a lot of things to the townspeople where we lived. He was a characater about town, well-respected and loved by all. To me, he was a traveler and storyteller, the very best kind of person to know.

We met one summer after my mom had a car accident. She drove through a double brick wall and dislodged a pop machine in the center of town (this is worthy of another story altogether!) and he was directing traffic on Main Street that day. Unbelieveably, my mom exited her totaled car without a break, a bruise or even a scratch! She simply fell asleep at the wheel, or so her doctor said. She drove through town asleep. Louis took his job of directing traffic seriously but got bored after awhile, so went over and snapped a shot of the damaged car. The day he met me, he delivered the photo to our home. (I don't think my mother ever fully appreciated this gesture as seeing her car in that condition upset her).

Louis found out I had traveled quite a bit, and he began to talk about his foray into India during World War II. That day I was smitten by the adventure and daring of Louis Hannah, or "Snapper" as he was fondly called. At 93 or 94, his eyes still expressed the excitement of the moments he disobeyed his commanding officer and went out in the villages.

This was the beginning of a great friendship. He never forgot to look me up when I got in town and take me to some of his favorite places, including a renovated ship called Flagship Niagara. The ship was used during the war of 1812. He served as a hand on it at age 85 or 86 for a seven months. Even though he was the crew's favorite, he insisted on doing more than his fair share of hte work. At my insistence, he showed me some award he got for that tour of duty. "Ain't nothing much." The men meant the world to him.

"Snapper, can I write your book?"

"Someday I will give you a run down on some of my life, which I'd like to compare with yours as you sure seem to get around a lot in different parts of the world that I have not been in yet."

I had to pin him down but we finally started the interview process when he realized that I was serious. I tape recorded some of his stories and he also wrote letters annotating his memories on an archaic typewriter. He brought out some very old pictures, which I still have.

Louis and I didn't finish his book but he has a very special place in my heart. I would like to do some fresh anecdotal research and finish it off one day soon. Our town deserves to read the rich story that made up his life--the travels he was so proud of, his years in the military, his thirty years as firechief, and his continued service, his time on the ship, and his years on his Harley, late in life...! Snapper lived an unforgettable life of adventure but he never forgot his manners along the way!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Hokey Pokey

This entry isn't really about the Hokey Pokey (though there is a band in the story!) or even a cat. I just gave it this title to remind myself that life is something that needs participation, and the Hokey Pokey is something that most people really get into with their whole body. That's the way I want to live my life. I don't want my vision to hold me back. I want to enjoy myself!


Tonight I tried out a "Church Café.” The band ‘Sellah’ was playing. My friend, Vicki, called to see if I wanted to go. What a coincidence! I’d also read about it on my Facebook page. Did I have energy for a night out!

I expected a rock band scenario singing Jesus music, that it would be dark, but minus the smoke and alcohol that a bar would contain. I envisioned some socializing, which would require some serious listening skills with the music going on. What was I getting myself into?!

My mom worried, “It’s going to be dark. Don’t forget your cane and wear your hearing aids.” I know. It sounds like she’s talking to an elderly aunt, doesn’t it?

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry. I have ‘em both!”

I am just forty-nine and use a blind man’s cane and old lady’s hearing aids. But they enable me to do things I wouldn’t do otherwise!

The café did indeed appear dark. ‘Sellah’ consisted of about ten women singing back-up, four men with various instruments and a lead singer who played the guitar. They belonged to Our Lady of the Peace Church. Pretty tame stuff! But at least it wasn’t blaring loud and I felt at ease. We liked the music anyway. They sang nice praise music as well as some old church hymns.

We got some coffee and pie, then sat down in some fold-up chairs. All the tables were taken. I really needed one to set my coffee and pie down on.

A few minutes later, my friend, Vicki, whispered loudly, “they’ve cleared that table now. Let’s grab it!”


It was a bit awkward with my cane, so I decided to make two trips. First I carried my pie and coffee, then I planned to get my cane, bag and jacket. I was halfway to the table when—BAM! I ran smack into a bearded man! My coffee splashed out of my cup and into the air, on him, on me—wherever. My pie flew to the floor and he stepped right on it. Splat!

It took me one second to react. Hot coffee! Hot! Hot! Hot!

Not again! Didn’t even have my cane to show why this cotton-pickin’ disaster happened. There it lay folded up as nice as you please next to my bag…

I plucked my sparkling black t-shirt away from my belly to save my skin, and before I could sensor my language, a mild curse escaped my lips. Oh! Where did that come from?

The lights came on and the band stopped playing. I kid you not! Was this God's wrath come down upon me?!

That moment felt like forever. It reminded me of when a sudden intercom announces to its shoppers that a lost child is seeking a familiar family member... except I imagined that my single curse word ricocheted around the room and back again. This would be followed by an explanatory voice, 'Lady in black curses in church café. Will the responsible party please pick her up at the front of room.' At this point, my imagination went wild. Every face in the room would turn toward me, including the ten angelic acappella singers and band members, in mid-stance (I’d guess about seventy-five in all).

Aaaagghhhh! I sought for a life-sized cross to hide behind! My imagination alarms me at times.

"Are you okay?” I asked the bearded fellow anxiously. "Did I burn you?"

"Just fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. " Was that echo in my mind? Or was he really four times fine? "Coffee didn't even touch me."

He rubbed his beard, "Let me get you another coffee."

No. No, no, nO, NO coffee! I hate, abolutely HATE coffee! Never drink it! Look what it caused!

"Yes, please." I found myself saying.


"French vanilla," I replied.

I tried to scoop up the mashed pumpkin pie from the floor but someone took the plate from my hand, and sat me down.

Although my eyes never work at the right time, I did notice the bearded man wipe the remnants of pumpkin pie off the smooth black sole of his shoe.

He handed me the coffee. "Oh thank you." The bearded man went back to sit down in his seat.

Vicki jabbed me, "That could be your future partner. It happens all the time!"

I rolled my eyes at her. "Shhhh. Hey Vicki, did the band actually stop back then because of my accident?" I was desperate for reassurance.

"Oh no, not at all. That was the last song of the set." She sounded certain of her facts. I wanted to believe her.

The band started up again. "Oh, there's Steve La John. I think it is, anyway. I haven't seen him in years. But it looks like his picture on Facebook" I shielded my eyes to see better.

"Oh, let's go talk to him!"

"No, no, no, no." I sputtered, terrified of another collision, and bringing more notice (read SHAME) on myself. "I'm not sure if it's him, actually. It's been thirty years."

After the band finished for the night, Vicki took my arm, "C'mon, let's go talk to Steve."

It was him, after all. He stood up and smiled at us.

"You remember Amy, don't you? She was in your class in high school..."

"Oh Amy, is that you? I didn’t see you.”

"Yeah, I kinda blend in with the darkness in my clothes!" Great comeback! I applauded myself.

As Vicki and Steve chatted about a beach they had both visited in Florida, I thought about my situation.

Let’s go back to my hokey pokey analogy, “you-put-your-right-eye-in, and your right-eye-out, you do the hokey pokey and ya shake it all about. That’s what it’s ALL aBOUT!” If I were completely blind, people would know. If I had normal sight, this wouldn’t happen. But as it is, I have one eye in both worlds.

So what can I do? Well, God, help me to simply laugh. This is me, quirks and all. I wanna dance the hokey pokey, and shake it all about! I don't want life to pass me by. I remember something I learned last summer. People who can't see well (or at all) tend to forget that others CAN see them! Maybe that's a good thing, 'cause I don't think I'd be too graceful dancin' the hokey pokey!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

I was lying down tonight trying to get rid of a persistent headache in the back of my head when my dog came into my bedroom. He came up to the bed and nudged me. I tried to ignore him. But then he did his usual--half bark, half gulping air. It makes a really comical sound. His meaning: get up. I'm bored! "Go away," I muttered, "I have a headache!" He continued to pester me until I got up and gave him some attention.

When I finally went back to take a nap, the image of someone else came to mind--an unlikely character in the parade of people I met during my hospital stay in Dubai. I never thought this woman would impact my life at all, but she did! God taught me how similar that women of different cultures are regardless of origin, language, position, education and background.

This is our story.

~ ~ ~ ~

I waited for doctors to sign my release papers from Dubai Hospital, recalling the sojourners God sent along my way—the image of an unlikely one popped to mind

I hadn’t liked her at all at first, especially not the way she mopped her way into my life. Mornings I wrote letters to keep my mind off the possibility I might lose the baby in the Problem Pregnancy Ward.

Bam! Bam! I looked at my watch. It’s her again.

“Do you have to wham my bed every day?”

Dark, square features turned away. Uh-oh. Too much English. Thick, pudgy, work-rough arms dragged the mop back and forth not caring that dust flew into the air and cascaded down around me like a sudden storm. As she swept, she nearly dislodged the books stacked next to my bed, and rammed the flower arrangement a recent visitor had brought.


She stopped mid-motion to stare. Hard. Angry.

“Many stuffs!” she muttered. “Why this?”

She smacked her chewing gum, deliberately blew a bubble and popped it, half-heartedly swiping a damp cloth over my food tray leaving a trail of crumbs behind.

I sighed, irritated—but as usual she ignored me.

I wish I spoke Urdu; I could tell this Pakistani woman a thing or two.

The maid’s bright yellow bell-bottomed uniform strained under her weight as she bent over, showing her broad backside. I watched her slow movement. Sensing my eyes, her mouth formed a thin line. Then she straightened and smoothed her tight polyester tunic, shuffling past, uncoiling a cord as she prepared to buff scuff marks. She heaved the buffer back and forth in long angry movements.

Most morning I’d pantomime messages after she whacked my bed. Stop that! I need soap. Toilet paper. Empty my trash. One day she held up a small bar of soap before I asked. I grinned. I pointed at the paper towels. She tossed the roll to me, a smile perched on her face.

I started looking forward to my daily bed-bashing sessions.

I actually missed her when a month later I moved to post-natal care—after losing the baby. I felt sorry for myself. Here I am, a stranger in a strange land. No one around—Bam! Bam! I glared at her. She made a funny face at me.

Wait, what is she doing here? This isn’t her area to clean!

She spoke to me through our usual non-verbal gestures She pantomimed a pregnant lady. Rocked a baby. Pointed to me. Giggled. Spread her palms, questioning. Tilted her head, bottom lip protruding. Demanding.

I shook my head “No.” Rocked a baby. Stopped. Held out my empty hands. Covered my face. Slowly uncovered it, my eyes wet. Our eyes met. Locked. She understood. At last, she stopped chewing her gum. She didn’t ram my bed at all after that.

That day both Pakistani and American shared wordless grief over a baby—strangers in a strange land profoundly bound as women across cultures.

~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you God for this woman who understood my grief. Thank you for teaching me that caring is not dependent on a common language. Thank you, most of all, for reaching across social barriers to show me the value of this woman. In her world, she shuffles across the room with a lowly mop. In Your world, she pauses to lift the spirits of a lowly patient. We are the same in Your eyes. And now, Lord, in my eyes as well. Teach me always to look beyond the surface to the heart for commonalities.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Some descriptive writing

I love descriptive writing! I found some interesting pieces that I wrote awhile back and thought I would share them with you tonight. Some of the places I describe are exotic, some are descriptive sentences I liked that I wrote at some point, and some are examples I really liked from other writers. Sensory writing is area of writing to develop as it allows the reader to "see" what you see and carries them along vicariously into the plot of a story, or a great feature article.

~ ~ ~ ~


My garden in UAE:

The branches of my Neem tree hung still, as if silently offering up its precious leaves, which if boiled are believed to cure a number of illnesses. Delicate pink, fuchsia and peach bougainvillea petals lay scattered at the base of their trees like sugared petals artfully trailing down the sides of a pure white wedding cake, soft colors accenting the union of two hopeful lives. In contrast, the vibrant red hibiscus flowers burst out boldly in front by my wall and again beside the house, looking an even deeper red in the evening light. The fronds of my date tree shiver in the slight breeze as two sacs of ripening dates droop low like heavily swollen breasts needing to purge themselves.

The Egyptian street café in January

The first aroma that hits you as you come upon the café is the tangy, apple tobacco set upon the small, white burning coals of the popular “shisha,” a centuries-old water pipe tradition that exits in place of cigarette smoking. The scent curls around the pipes and entices you to linger over tiny glasses of very sweet dark tea, the sprigs of fresh mint overpoweringly fragrant as the steam pours off the glass set before you.

The wind that blows up from the plane is called the loo. It churns all day, hot and restless, throwing handfuls of dirt into the air and making the water in my mouth turn to mud. It cries all night too, blowing its feverish breath through the cracks in our walls, speaking its name again and again. “Loo,” it wails, announcing itself all over the land. “Looooooo…”
--Patricia McCormick, Sold (Hyperion), 2006, p. 19.

I heard the tinkling of her bell and looked up and saw my little speckled goat wandering around the schoolyard, bleating in despair. When finally she spotted me through the window, she bahhed with wounded pride, indignant at being left behind. She marched across the yard, propped her hooves upon the windowsill and looked in with keen and curious eyes as the teacher finished the lesson. When school was over and we climbed the hill toward home, Tali trotted ahead, her stubby tail held high. “Next week,” I promised her, “we will work on our spelling.”
--Patricia McCormick, Sold (Hyperion), 2006, p. 6.

A simple sentence with a powerful action verb

A short, fat, purple candle with plump cheeks that reminded me of Santa Clause spoke up.
-- Max Lucado, “Edges and Whispers” taken from God came Near: Chronicles of the Christ (Multinomah Press), 1987.

The heat of the Egyptian sun slid behind the waves of tranquil red sea in our tiny paradise.
-- Amy Bovaird, taken from “Honeymoon Celebration” [a poem], June 1996.

The steely sky with its dark-tinged clouds feels heavy, and for Israel it is almost as if he carries an extra burden, like a woman balancing a heavy wash basket on her head as she walks.
-- Lalita Tademy, Red River (Wheeler Publishing, 2007), 23.

A sentence with a vivid metaphor

Though I continued walking on elasticized legs, my soul started running with God.
-- Amy Bovaird, “Tread Softly Along the Camel Trail” devotional, October 2006.

I never want to lose my delight in this sport because I learned today that God is a great champion skater but He is also my close partner skating on the arena with me.
-- Amy Bovaird, “Ice Skater’s Delight” devotional, June 2003.

Now my words become ballerinas leaping eagerly, in charge of their own movement, no longer driven by great gusts of air, or pocketed carelessly in gutters, no longer passive.
-- Amy Bovaird, “Overcoming Writer’s Block” letter, December 2005.

Widow...that sounds like an eighty year old lady dressed in black, an old shriveled up lady crooning to herself, going half mad
-- Amy Bovaird, “Is it Christmas Yet?” short story, February 2005.

My Lord is forming me as meticulously as I fashion my ideas. I select each word with certainty, looking for grace, subtlety and beauty – diverse qualities but each integral to my writing, and now I discover -- to my being. Suddenly I feel like a work of art...beautiful strokes of calligraphy gifted to me, composing the wonderful person God is crafting me to be. This peacefulness I’ve ached to have these past few days fills the canvas of my spirit, sure strokes that leave no doubt within me. God is looking after me.
-- Amy Bovaird, “Seeking Strength of Thought” Essay, December 2005.

Day's End, Lord Hear My Heart

It’s somewhere around 11 pm and the house looms dark except for my office where I sit at the computer. I can hear the distant sound of music from behind the closed door of my brother’s room but I know he’s been sleeping for some time. As I step out into the hall and steal down the stairs the silence meets with darkness and a familiar melancholy engulfs me. I think I’ve had this feeling since I was a child alone in the solitude just before slumber -- but now it almost always overwhelms me for a few minutes each night. It’s sorrow the day has gone, uncertainty for the future, loneliness that everyone is asleep and thus, somehow vulnerable, and lastly, it encompasses life’s fragility.
-- Amy Bovaird "Reflections at the End of Day" Essay, January 2007.

Observing ... Disturbing ...Silencio!

A freshman in my Spanish I class surprised me this morning when she came up to my desk and began to whisper to me. Have you ever heard slurred whispered words through braces? Well, I didn't either! So, I inquired again what as to what she said. No better the second time around. But she looked more earnest, and I hadn't the heart to say I still had no idea what she had just said.

Typical of me.

Let me state this for the record for everyone to hear: On the best of days, I have a hearing problem! Did you catch that? Do I need to tell you again? Louder? No? Now everyone knows! I wear very small (and wonderfully compact!) hearing aids, which work really well. 91% well, to be exact! Except for the clear tiny wire, no one would even know. That's my problem. Most people don't know. So, I can get away with not really hearing if I don't insist on absolute clear communication. Which I do, the majority of the time. After all, that's pretty essential in a language classroom, wouldn't you say?

I'm working on ridding myself of this crazy, false pride the few times that I don't insist. But I'm not totally 'there' yet. So, I choose my battles. This was one battle I let pass.

As you might guess, the flu has affected my hearing. I feel as if I am an ocean away from people. So, not only am I only at 91% at best, I wasn't even at 91% today! So, when my student whispered to me before the start of class with such a hopeful expression on her face, I smiled and nodded. She returned to her seat with a happy gait, having accomplished her purpose.

A minute or so before eleven o'clock this morning, she began to cough and point frantically to the clock on the wall. I nodded and continued with my lesson. The class took a lively interest in the dramatic show of attention the time received. I directed their attention to the class activity at hand.

"Por favor, silencio!" I admonished.

"Si, si!" they shouted, "Silencio!"

A wave of "Silencio's" tore through the classroom, complete with nine sets (of double arms) waving up and down and pointing to the clock in fairly synchronized movements. But with my vision, the arms looked fuzzy to me. Was I seeing double? It seemed like a comedic pantomime, and increased the unreal far-away oceanic sense I was experiencing this morning.

I stared at these lunatic students of mine in mid-activity. Han ido todos locos? Had they all gone mad?

Then, the unthinkable happened.

I turned to find my place in the book, which I'd placed on a music stand that I use as a "podium." In retrospect, this is much too fragile of a piece of equipment to ever hold a book in place. The excitement in the class caught me off balance. I pushed the page of the teacher's text a bit too hard to emphasize my command (I guess I don't know my own strength!). The music stand slid two inches lower. When I tried to pull it up again, my wrist caught the leg and I threw it backwards. With a thud, it bounced off the whiteboard, and crashed sideways to the floor. The teacher's text slid three feet to the right, upside down, and creased the page terribly.

But it didn't stop there.

My poor vision caused more commotion!

I tripped over the base of the music stand and pitched sideways into a special desk that held a fan -- which happened to be turned on! The black whiteboard marker I was holding flew toward the fan. For one terrible moment, I was afraid that the marker would get sucked in to the blades. My worst case scenario: the blade chewing up the marker would then echo out my open window to the old "empty" sanctuary on the other side. That racket would then reverberate on down to the principal's office. She would then, in turn, be forced to come running to my classroom. The scenario was all a little too much for me! I started to feel faint...

My hearing aid suddenly picked up all kinds of sounds and magnified them, mostly the peals of laughter coming from my students open mouths.

"Bet you didn't know your 'profesora' was so wild, did you?" I joked in an attempt to retrieve my dignity and to surreptitiously check for bruising or broken bones. "Where is my cane when I need it?" I asked as I tried to normalize the classroom situation.

"It's back by your desk. Do you want me to get it?"

"No, gracias. Un chiste. Just a joke!"

"Mann, now it's too LATE!" The student sounded very put out.

"Como?" What?

I received no response. The students were too busy falling off their chairs, trying to hold their belly-defying laughter in check.

One kind student got up to pick up the teacher's text and smooth out the page. Another picked up the music stand and set it upright.

One anxious student asked if I were okay. Note: Only one.

The students finally calmed down.

"Why were you acting so crazy? What were you trying to tell me just a minute ago? What were you all flailing your arms about?" I asked the students.

The student who whispered to me answered for everyone, "I told you. We had to observe a moment of silence at exactly eleven o'clock because everyone in the United States is supposed to do that at the same time. Today is Veteran's Day!"

"Ohhh," Everyone cracked up, including me.

"Vamos a hacerlo ahora." Let's do it now.

"It's not the same at all." exclaimed the one who said we were too late, "It doesn't count."

Silence is golden, but not my classroom! Our SILENCIO is the noisiest sound we hear! Well, maybe not me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Best Is Yet To Come

A Devotional

“Give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.” Psalm 119:125 (NIV)

“Lemme hear it again, nurse!”

I lived for that single moment each day to hear the heartbeat of my baby when the nurse came through the ward. After weeks in the hospital, I dared dream my baby would live. But in the sixth month of my pregnancy, they rushed me onto the operating table and delivered a tiny girl who weighed 350 grams. They told me she had twenty-five percent chance of survival. Later, when the consultant came to explain that she had died, why was I shocked?

How could God let me glimpse the desire of my heart and then take it away?

Other disappointments entered my life. My writing seemed to be going nowhere fast. Articles got rejected. My book was taking too long to write. I didn’t get hired for a teaching job I felt particularly suited for. The relationship I’d just started finished much too soon…

I know my desires are Godly. When I view each one from my perspective, I can see that it seems good. It looks good. It feels right. That job at the ivy league university seemed perfect for me. My articles looked polished. I felt this man had Godly characteristics that would draw me closer to him and God…

It doesn’t matter how big or small the disappointment is, it still attacks my confidence level. How can God show me the desires of my heart and then whisk them away?

I've thought about this a lot. Maybe it's because He knows our future, which we don't. Does He want to develop our patience and trust Him to give us what He knows is best?

What I’ve learned is that we need to wait on God’s timing. Sometimes Satan sends us distracters, something good, but not something particularly right for us - immediately before God sends us the best. And we'll miss the best if we are not tuned into God’s will for our lives. Why settle for good when we can receive the best?

Our choices impact every single decision we make in life so we must learn to view them from God’s viewpoint. When we make any decision, we must continually ask God for a discerning spirit to see that something for what it really is. When God closes a door, I’m learning that it’s essential to trust Him if I want the best for myself and to fulfill His plan for my life.

Faith doesn’t just happen. We have to grow it by trusting God, especially when we feel disappointed. The upside is that God will comfort us and draw us closer to Him. Developing a discerning spirit will mature my faith, and I’ll be ready when He sends me the real deal. It might not be the job I think I want, or the magazine I think I want to be published in, or even the partner I imagine myself with. But it will be God’s best.

Lord, please help me to seek out Your will for my life. You know my temperament, my attitudes, and my abilities. You’ve already planned my future. Show me how to write the words that will inspire others to know you better. Let me teach the students whose hearts I can touch the most. Reveal the partner that You’ve chosen for me. Help me to seek out Your best.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moving? Try the ADVENTURE Method of Adapting!

I just wrote this entry for fun and to explore how I really adapted to moving around so much for the past twenty-five years! (Actually, I think it was probably more difficult to adapt to moving back to my hometown here in PA! We're talking "reverse culture shock" here!).

Having successfully settled in six US cities as well as in five continents abroad, I recommend the "ADVENTURE" method of adapting. It's easy to remember and fun to do. Best of all, you really get to know your new environment!

For future references, you can find this information on a brochure at any Department of Defense (DOD) military installation and your local public library when I market it. For easy reference, ask for The Adventure Method of Adapting to New Cities, Cultures and Countries.

Okay, ready? Let's get started!

A: ASK lots of questions about your host country (preferably before arriving!). Ask people who have lived there before, check business contacts (your new employer might have a 'buddy' system in place in which you've been assigned a specific person to help you adjust) and email makes it easy to contact them ahead of time.

D: DARE yourself to step out of the routine to make new acquaintances. Push yourself. No one else is going to. Don't wait for someone to welcome you. Seek people out, and you'll be glad you did.

V: VISIT one or more places once a week (perhaps a nearby place in the area where you live-a restaurant, museum, or try to seek out a new sports or culural event to observe. This is a great way for families to discover their new environment together! Or, you might want to visit a nearby town or city, say, once a month.

E: EXPRESS what you're feeling and seeing. I kept a journal. Others might want to record their feelings on tape, talk to a friend or relative in their home country via one of the inexpensive computer software cameras. The most important thing is to share your feelings (good, bad, bewildered, angry even) so as not to isolate yourself as you're trying to adapt.

N: NOD a lot. Some people might not agree with this step. They might think it makes them look silly. In that case, feel free to leave this step out! But many times when I wasn't sure of how to respond, I merely smiled and nodded politely. I never offended anyone; people smiled back and I soon learned what I needed to know by watching others.

T: TASTE new foods! Go ahead. The bigger risk-takers can go for the sushi, 1,000 year-old eggs, or octopus while the more timid can merely try a new noodle, or a local variation of a meat cutlet.

U: UNDERSTAND Culture Shock! Get a book on it, look it up on the Internet, attend a lecture, whatever. If you're planning to live in a country for any extended length of time, you'll be going through various phases of adapting and if you don't understand what it is you're feeling and why, you might start to feel alienated from your host culture for things you [or they] have no control over.

R: REMOVE cultural baggage. For example, stop thinking that your (or your country's) way is the best way to do something. It might be better or faster, but what works is what occurs in the host culture. So, it's better to figure out how the system works and work within that framework because anything else just ain't gonna happen. It's only going to frustrate you more. Relax, enjoy the local methods. That will help you to start identifying with the local population as well. Or at least make for a good story!

E: ENGAGE in new activities. For example, if you normally play American football, perhaps you can join a group of "futbal" or soccer players. Don't just watch a cultural celebration -- be part of it. This isn't only for outgoing people. I consider myself quite shy but in a small group, I learned several folk dances, how to use chopsticks, how to get around on local transport, and I explored.

Well, there you have it, readers, the Adventure Method of Adapting to New Cities, Cultures and Countries. This was helpful not only when I moved abroad but when I relocated in other American cities. San Antonio is as different from little ol' Girard as being in a foreign country! Corvallis, Oregon was also completely different. Whether it's a short move or a permanent relocation, the Adventure Method will serve you well.

Good luck in your moves, everyone, whether it's national or international, and let me know what adventures you encounter in your new positive locales!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two Stories: A Life AND Fruit Worth Savoring

The Wedding Day of the daughter of Charley Dodds, "the Tree Man's Number One Climber"

Awhile ago, I attended the wedding of Charley Dodd's daughter. I hate to say this but even more than seeing his daughter tie the knot, it was Charley who captivated my attention. Charley, a thirty-year veteran tree climber in my dad's business, is a man worth savoring. He looked so cool in a blue tux with his long, now graying, hair pulled back in a ponytail and an equally gray but trimmed beard. His eyes still lit up and he had the goofiest grin on his face as he walked his daughter down the aisle. I realized how much I'd missed not seeing Charley around! He'd been around me on and off since high school; this was his daughter's big day; I was so glad to be a part of it! To appreciate Charley's appearance, you'd have to know what a monkey he was in the many years past - swinging and carrying on like a crazy guy in the tops of trees, on a lakebank, on the ground, or in the barn fixing a truck - always telling his own stories. Seeing him at the wedding in clean clothes but with the same cocky grin on his face reminded me that Charley had remained true to himself; nothing had changed. Life was always something Charley would savor!

~ ~ ~ ~

Chocolate Water Folly
A Devotional

I am the vine; you are the branches; if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...I chose you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. John 15: 5, 16.

The chocolate waterfall graced the table near the punch bowl at a wedding I recently attended.

Thick luscious chocolate flowed down the four-tiered fountain. I had never seen a chocolate "fountain" fondue and it fascinated me. Long slender skewers lay next to the fruit, inviting guests to spear tidbits of fruit.

When I attempted to skewer more than one piece of fruit, they wobbled on the stick so I settled on a single pineapple chunk. I anticipated the taste of the chocolate encompassing my sweet pineapple. Finally, the moment arrived; I lifted it up to my lips. The hardened chocolate tasted oh so sweet over the still juicy pineapple.

I sprinted back to the chocolate fondue where I selected four more pieces of fruit and on the sput-of-the-moment, a marshmallow. Determined to get the most I could on the stick, I strung them tightly together. I held the fruit right under the geyser at the top tier. Covering the marshmallow turned out to be trickier when it fell off my skewer. I tried to re-string it, then poked it in the fountain wherever I could get it in, but the chocolate didn’t harden. I scurried off toward my table, embarrassed.

After I sat down, people began to tease me. My plate had filled up with a river of chocolate, running off that lone marshmallow. The smooth sweet chocolate formed a hard shell around my fruit but the chocolate covering my marshmallow never hardened.

Upon reflection, I realized that when I seek a relationship with God through His Word, the Holy Spirit and prayer, and DO the will of my Father, I become like that strong, hardened chocolate, sealing in a rich center for others to savor — the succulent fruit of my life.

But when I exist with the Word flowing over and around me, but do nothing to attach it to my heart or bring it to life through my actions, it refuses to harden and so much spillage befalls me. Instead of the living stream God intends, it masses at the base of my life-plate, as the chocolate water “folly” did mine at the wedding reception.

I want to draw near Him and become that firm chocolate coating that flavors the fruit I bear to the world.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Heavenly Light Part II


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Heavenly Light Part I

Tonight I was reading something how God has the motive and desire for each of us to come to a point when we want to "know and abide in His presence." So for a short time, he separates us from something or someone we care about deeply. Only God knows why He does this, but the author said that it is to "bring focus and spiritual depth to that person's life."


The Squashbuckler

Well, folks -- I've been offline for two days now because I've been squashed under a heavy mass of blankets, and I've been "buckled up" in long underwear, flannel pajamas and a heavy robe. Is it any wonder? I've had the chills. I came down with whatever-this-is in the wee hours of Thursday morning, but went to work as usual, actually longer as I had go early and give a make-up test.

Friday I could barely move. I felt like I was in a great fog. I imagine I have the flu. I hope it isn't the swine flu. I don't know though as my doctor wasn't in his office on Friday and I heard my principal say that it cost $300 for the swine flu test. Since I'm not insured, I can guess that what I have is the normal flu ... sore throat, fever and dizziness. I missed a day of work, sent work along, however, for my students. Then I crashed in bed. All day long.

Today (Saturday) I woke up with lots of energy, clearer-headed and ready to take on the world. I washed dishes, did my banking and mailed a card. That's all she wrote. My energy bank had used itself up. I had to lie down. When I woke up, I completed a few loads of my laundry. Then, exactly the same result: with that burst of energy used up, I had to lie back down.

Then I woke up and made lasagna. By the time I finished that, I was more than woozy. I got my layers mixed up (at least that's what I tell myself; I suppose it could have happened flu-less or as usual, because I was clueless!). Lasagna takes lots of concentration even on a good day! I've not had a good history with this dish. I've only made it a few times, but the first time I attempted it, I was working between two recipes. I glanced down at my book and then at the box, and was ready to place the top layer on the coveted dish, when the whole glass rectangular baking dish careened to the floor and broke in a million pieces. Not only did I lose the dish, I cut myself and plugged up my sweeper vacuuming the rest of the glass up (the sweeper is still broken!).

Thanks for checking in today. I think I feel my energy waning again; I just might be squashbuckled into bed again within the next five minutes. Whew! This burst of energy is short-lived! But if it comes back, I'll post my next story to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just a greenhorn networker!

Today I was very busy preparing for a networking session I had just learned about aimed at business strategists, writers and inventors. I gotta start getting serious about my goal of becoming a published writer. No time like the present!

"How can I attend? I don't even have any name cards! What if...?"

Whether it was to show that my excuses for not attending or worries about being prepared once I got there were unfounded, my friend designed a simple but effective name card for me to pass out at the session. It contained only my name, profession, the link to my blog and my email address. My immediate goal was to promote my blog, since both my two books are very much works-in-progress. I made photocopies on card stock and cut them with a paper cutter so they would look fairly professional.

I had never networked before but I psyched myself up. Gone was the under confident, do-you-think-I-can-really-make-it-as-a-writer Amy. This new me had to believe that I already was one in order to sell myself! Apparently, there was to be a famous speaker at this event, and we had only half an hour to network. I would have to be efficient. The speaker seemed incidental to my goal of networking.

I arranged for transport to get to the event, then hurried to be ready to leave after a quick dinner. As I waited, thoughts assailed me. What if people avoid networking with me cause they think I can't see? What should I do? Maybe I shouldn't go after all.

"Of course you should go!" My friend sounded exasperated. "It's up to you to make others feel comfortable. Make small talk. That's how conversations open up."

My ride arrived and off I went.

Countdown to network: twenty minutes. Ten minutes. five minutes. 6:30! Time to mingle!

One glance around said that might be a challenge. There were so few people! I saw only five or six, total. The attendant offered to sign in for me but I assured her that I could see well enough to do that myself. I then proceeded to prove that I could by doing it.

Afterwards. the blond-haired woman guided me over to the water table and asked me kindly, "How can I help you? What do you need?"

I felt puzzled; I didn't 'need' anything, except to pour water from the pitcher and to begin networking.

"You will hear many people saying that to you tonight," she added.

My first thought was "I am perfectly capable of navigating myself through this networking session on my own, no worries."

It has only been two months since I have been using my cane. As a result, I am sensitive about my independence and what I can accomplish even though I have vision limitations. People don't know how much I can still see, and they don't ask. They often assume that I am completely blind and can do little or nothing by myself. This irks me.

But after the woman spoke to me a little bit more, I realized that the "How can I help you? What do you need?" are catch phrases designed to help people network more effectively and had nothing to do with my vision issues whatsoever! I smiled. I felt energized once more.

I have so much to learn! I'm just a greenhorn!

"Uh, I am a-a writer." I must attempt to sound more polished! Oh no, I even forgot to offer my name card-- though she promised to send me some information for copywriters. Next time, I'll get it right! As the woman sauntered off to ask another how she could help and what was needed, I prepared myself.

Networking, here I come! I squared my shoulders and set off for a group of three that I saw talking.I listened for awhile but then jumped in. "So you invented a game--?" I asked one of the women. She nodded and launched into a how-great-this-organization-is spiel. "And what about you two?" I asked warmly as I turned to the other two.

"I have a cleaning business." the other woman said.

"I'm just here to cart her purse," joked a silver-haired gentleman with a moustache.

"Do you have a card?" There! I got the words out just as I had been coached. As soon as I got hers, I could go ahead and offer the first of my own thirty-two cards. I could hardly wait!

The woman raised an eyebrow, "Do you need someone to clean your home?"

No! This is not the way it is supposed to work! You are supposed to offer it kindly with a smile on your face and ask for mine in return, or at least give me a chance to offer it!

She motioned to the silver-haired gentleman who stepped away from the group to fetch her coat. She fished into a pocket before returning the coat to her friend. "As a matter of a fact, I do." She handed it to me casually.

"Oh! I have one, too." I almost felt like I should present it in the Japanese way since this was a big deal for me. But I caught myself in time. Get a grip! You're not in Japan anymore!

The words were barely out of my mouth when the woman with the cleaning company suddenly left me standing alone. She rushed off to meet someone who I surmised would benefit her more. A few feet away, she turned as if just remembering our conversation "Excuse me, I see someone I know."

"Oh, have you been here--?" I was going to say before but she was long gone.

"Keep smiling, Amy!" I desperately tried to scope out someone--anyone else--to continue networking off my remaining thirty-one cards. Unfortunately, my time ran out. The regional director stepped up to the microphone. Everyone quickly took their seats. After a couple of minutes, she introduced the keynote speaker, a famous entrepreneur.

He was exciting and motivating - though some of his speech went over my head; the personal stories and entrepreneurial stuff seemed to blend together in one continuous blurb that everyone found very funny. I found myself missing key points. He did have a commanding presence, however.

Afterwards I had a chance to mentor with him briefly and he convinced me that I had the ability to not only write a book about my father but also a screenplay of his life! The speaker led another man to dream that he, too, could get published. After hearing about his talents, the speaker suggested that he write a practical book utilizing his psychological background. "Entitle it, 'We're All Nuts!' We are all nuts in one way or another. It's something we can all relate to. It'll be a best seller!" It was as if proclaiming made it true. Everyone clapped in delight.

To the fabulous baker in our midst, he gestured grandly, "Rename your business..." he looked in my direction as if to inspire himself, then snapped his fingers, " something like "The Gingerbread House." He then swept her off her feet with his enthusiastic marketing and branding possibilities. Our speaker encouraged the out-of-work business man who'd worked for big companies all his life only to be laid-off now just before retirement, "My company can get you networking with other companies. Tell them you want to be the chairman and demand five percent of the profits. We'll put your skills to good use!" The frown on the businessman's face turned to a smile and he began to nod in agreement as he saw himself in this new, much more positive role.

Our speaker was in the business of flaming our grandest hopes, much more so than we dared to envision on our own . He believed BIG. We each saw our dreams in vibrant technicolor as we entered the spotlight tonight. Very heady stuff!

But at the end of the night, my pocket still held thirty-one name cards and my pocketbook was void of the thousands of dollars I needed in order join this outfit to become the screenplay writer I was intended to be.

But it was a great experience! I'm one sweep of my cane closer to becoming the writer I want to be. Next time I won't be so green...maybe red in the face, but not green.

Oh Lord, I'm thankful that you showed me this opportunity and provided me with a friend that didn't allow me to back out when my fears threatened to overcome me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The English Tea Set

One of the new genres I'm attempting to write now is the devotional. It's challenging for me because I'm used to using much more description. This is forcing me to focus on my message and keep my ideas concise (around 300 words). This story seemed to leap to the forefront of experiences I've had recently. The words were buzzing around my head til I finally wrote them out.

~ ~ ~ ~

"Talia with the tea set her Aunt Emily gave her for her birthday."


“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” I Samuel 3:10

My niece, Rachel, stopped by to visit with her two-year-old, Talia, in tow. Talia found something new - an ornate shelf, which held several teapots from around the world. She spied one just her size, a miniature tea set from England. She picked up a teacup and drank some tea.

“Hey, she’s never done that before!” I exclaimed. “When did she become interested in teapots?”

“Her aunt Emily gave her a play set for her birthday last week!” Rachel laughed. She tried to still Talia’s hands, “Maybe we shouldn’t play with this one.”

“Oh, it’s okay, she can’t hurt it.” I assured.

Talia poured some imaginary tea and filled it with cream. The tea set looked very beautiful with its tiny rosebud pattern and of course, was very fragile. “You can’t find this in America,” I said.

A moment later, Talia broke a handle on the delicate creamer. “I’m sorry, Aunt Amy,” Rachel said, “Her fingers are too clumsy to handle this stuff.”

“It can be fixed, don’t worry.” But Rachel pulled her over and whispered something in her ear. Soon, Talia was chasing after the dog and forgot all about the tea set.

I, too, was clumsy recently and broke a budding relationship. I thought I could easily fix it, just like the handle on the creamer. But I was wrong. God, that relationship was also beautiful. Please whisper something in my ear to draw my attention away from the breakage. Speak to me, and I will listen.

Application: When your mistakes overwhelm you, listen to God’s voice and let Him refocus your desires.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trusting The Master

I took a long walk down to the Boro park the other day. During the walk, I picked up leaves. I decided to take them home and flatten them under a big book, then make cards with them. As I bent over to look for good leaf specimens, I began to think about all the leaves along the path. It was kind of windy so I pulled up my hood and secured it. I could hear the wind moaning through the hundreds of trees along the banks surrounding the road. I looked up and saw that the wind was prying some leaves off and throwing them to the ground at that very moment.

This caused me to reflect on not only the leaves but our lives as well. "Trusting the Master"is the result is the result of my reflections that day.

It's as if we are leaves in God's palm. Oftentimes, we are at odds with letting go of the familiar. We almost have to be pried from the safety of our branches, limbs, and taken from the tree, which has been our home for a much do we trust Him? How many emotions we go through on our flight off the stem! Do our deeper colors demonstrate our maturity ... or is it our size ... or speed in which we fly? Or is it how we land?

~ ~ ~ ~

"...because he himself (God) gives all men life and breath and everything else...He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is never far. For in him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:25-28, NIV.

Trusting the Master

Yellow-belly core
Hugging slender stems,
Unwilling to let loose--
Prying, tearing, lifting,
Filtered through His Hands.
Sailing, lunging, laughing,
Each unique acrobatic performance
Highlights the changing
Crimson-tipped free form
Cupped within His fingers,
Finally wafting to resettle.

Wherever it is that we land, may we never lose sight that God is the one who gives us life and breath, and it is His course that we spiral through during our lifetime.

Walking through the woods made me realize that I cannot chart my own path or determine how fast or slow I am to move, but I have to depend on God to guide me. I am lost in the wind without Him.

Poetry Tribute to Don Bovaird

I know nowadays a poem is not as esteemed if it rhymes, (that's considered passe) or if doesn't have a certain rhythm with the syllables. A poem this long should be free verse, I'm told from my critique circle. But I like it. It expresses what I feel my father's life stood for. There are a couple of lines I could tweek, but this is the story of my dad's life. So, I guess that makes it a story poem. It's light, and every bit true-to-form. I'd like to put it at the end of my book with a photo of my dad, his truck and his dog.

~ ~ ~ ~

My father lived as he saw fit, kind to all, giving bit by bit,
To his family and children, he seemed to never quit.
The land, his trees and cars were his favorite pastimes,
They made up his life and summed up his fast times;
Missy and Elmo with snoots to the wind brought him great pleasure,
In exchange for a doughnut, some pie, and the parades to treasure.
To children around town he offered rides and great tales,
To his customers, a chance to see Lake Erie and their boat sails;
He kept a family-run trade his kids often part ‘a the crew,
His wife did the accounts and answered calls as it grew.
A long-time tree squad made up of a bunch ‘a guys,
More like monkeys with fun and mischief to devise;
He built up the business with his know-how and two hands,
Some chainsaws, a few old trucks and a trailer of spray cans;
His trucks groaned onto the tree site, leaving a trail a’ oil stains
And a ground man with sawdust to cover or leave for the rains.
Soon Dad would drive up in a rickety truck to give an order or two,
Then chortle off with instructions for the other work crew.
I knew Dad would never retire; he’d simply inquire
Seek yet another goal to acquire and dream to inspire;
Unique and bold to ‘branch out’ on untried roads ahead,
From cutting down trees to stretching out cars with old tread;
A fun loving man to know with a great many stories to tell,
All around people would wave, or sit down for a spell;
From chasing a crook to putting out fire, or dispatching a call –
Just talk to my dad who seemed to have done it all!
He mapped each road and unmarked route in his head,
Assuming his guys’ local geography just as widespread.
An optimist to the end he always started a brand new trend,
It still seems as if ‘The Tree Man’ will appear just around the bend --
With a wave and a smile, perhaps a honk as a sign,
And that trademark black Lab with a bark from behind.

May 21, 2006