Back Porch Sittin’


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While on break from writing chapter 15 a few days ago, Bella and I reclined on the patio. Just me, my dog and the intoxicating autumn sun. The day was mellow-warm, and a cool breeze lulled my overstimulated mind.

Spider webs cascaded through every corner of the yard, in between patio chairs; woven above the long pipes of the wind chimes. I belsafrowned—I had killed two spiders in my kids shower last night. It is October, the month of scary creatures. Instantly, I think of the two dominating the news right now, then push that thought away.

The breeze carried a thread of silk into the sky, all silvery and graceful. I admired their constructors’ perseverance—they build and rebuild webs until their time to weave is done. Despite us two-legged creatures who plough through their homes and take out their family members “just in case” they find their ways into our shoes or beds to bite us, they never stop construction. Underneath our chairs, from pillar to pillar where we walk through each day, from neighbor’s yard to neighbor’s yard, building bridges between us all whether we like their methods or not.

Metaphors reign all over my backyard—such is the curse of a writer’s imagination. I see them everywhere—in chapter 15, the news. It’s all one giant web, concealing who the good guys really are.

What I most want to do is to drown out the noise and just enjoy the autumn sun. How about you? Do you need to rest? Why don’t you join me on my virtual patio, and we’ll build a bridge or two? Turn off the debates, take off your shoes and sit awhile. Want to see the Darwin’s Bark spider in action? Have a seat and enjoy this miracle.

Ode to Dogs


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When my dog catches a spook in her step, from a state-away earthquake or
an approaching storm, I wonder at her ability to sense
things I cannot. Dogs are extraordinary in so many ways—our most loyal friends, playmates for our children and guardians of our households.
Our Bella is certainly no saint when she tries to make a meal from a rat-sized
chihuahua. But if she’s sensitive enough to react to the tiniest fluctuation in the atmosphere,dog-moon
and her hackles raise when she detects a malevolent influence lurking inside an innocent looking human,
Perhaps it’s because she and other dogs can detect the realm beyond us where good and
evil fight for our loyalty.
Maybe that’s why God gifted us with dogs…they stand by our sides, watching for the
hidden things we cannot see.

Generation Hearing Aid


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“Why do young women like their hair sloppy these days? Women of my age keep their hair combed and styled to look decent,” said the man standing next to his wife donning a beehive from the south side of Hades.

I knew better than to be insulted by his comment. His wife and I were from different eras with different ideas of beauty, but we got along just fine. It was him that couldn’t make peace with Generations Whatever. This happened over a decade ago, before I became a parent without the time to care about my hair or anyone else’s.


But the comment that really ruffled my sloppy-young hair was when he made fun of my size. “Women of my generation were soft, and had more curves. Girls of today are just skin and bones,” said the man when my 120 pound frame helped a caregiver lift his 200+ sack of curves from the floor. Did I tell him that I worked muscle onto my skin and bones every day before work so I could lift him and a few others off the floor each time they fell?

No. Even as a young spawn from Generation Whatever, I knew his sass was due to his loss of dignity. The next day, he came to my desk and told me he used to be a cop. He was the one who came to the rescue. He told me about the 100 lb. bags of Whatever he could lift above his head. I heard the frustration coming through his insults, and understood.

He just wanted someone to hear him—the real him that was a hero and not chained inside his worn-out body. I think each generation mourns the differences of the ones that follow, focusing on the changes in attitudes, fashion, and music. But if my crabby friend had stopped talking long enough to pay attention, he would have realized that I didn’t care a flying beehive what year he came from, or what he looked like as an old man—I heard him. I saw him.

And despite being the one of the worst listeners I’ve ever known, the man inside the skin taught me how to hear people.

I wish the Millennials great hair and good ears.

Vote Here


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A publisher told a class I once attended that he could tell when a manuscript had been written by a teen rather than an adult. It isn’t the quality of writing that gives it away—copious amounts of formal education makes a storyteller not—it’s the human experience: falling in love, becoming a parent, losing a loved one; living long enough to have experienced the depths of life. It’s after experiencing the heart of what their story is about that a writer can take the science and art and weave it together with the kind of scars we received from boldly living.

“If you haven’t experienced your story in deep doses”, he said, “You better research the heck out of it to make it believable because readers want to connect with truth.”

So even though I haven’t lived in a dystopian society like I created in Wake where expressive art was outlawed, I have been undervalued by teachers because they hadn’t experienced art in its true form. There have been times when I painted a canvas with inspiration I know didn’t come from me—I’ve been in a class where a student refused to paint a particular subject because of the truth of what it might have revealed in him. I don’t know the power of art because of what a few authority figures have told me—I know it because I’ve lived it.bd86b164-3e87-407b-a0e6-aac08c725442

So when the elections rolled around, and our choices were limited to OMG! and YOU’RE KIDDING! I started mulling over the wisdom of the candidates—that’s how I vote, because an eloquent speaker or a horrible speaker are just speakers; I don’t care how well or how poorly they speak, I want to know what they KNOW. What have they lived through that makes me think they will lead with the fruits of their experiences?

When I had finally finished with my core subjects in college and was free to study art, my boss at the time commented on how I had no “real” classes left. Why then, I wondered, did she see the importance of hanging a particular painting where it was the first thing she looked at every day? Somehow, she had missed the connection. This is what I ponder when candidates discuss whether or not a fetus is a “real” baby, or if certain ethnic groups should suffer for the sins of a few because even the innocent are a “real” threat. If faith isn’t a factor for a candidate (it is for some, but we all know professing a faith is a campaign strategy), and science hasn’t gotten far enough to give answers to the hard questions…what kind of deep living do they draw their conclusions from?

What do you think? Let’s lend an ear during the debate tonight—maybe we’ll be able to discern the wisdom from the speech.




Peculiar Snapshots


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I danced as Coppelia when I was sixteen. Like a superpower caught in a snapshot for Peculiar Children, this was mine. It’s not that I danced better than anyone else—it was that I was a wallflower, pulled from the dry wall, painted in bright color and set on the stage to tell a story. 11143277_10208165340716673_1456411550739629151_nPeculiarly, ballet made me bold like nothing else did. I even pressed a curve into my flat feet when I rose to my satin pointes.
Maybe landing the role despite my oddities was God saying, “all you need is to be willing. I’ll bring the magic.”
What makes you bold?
Feel free to share any peculiar snapshots of yourself in the comments.

How to not be an Expert


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Yesterday, I had to solve a problem without the internet. My panel of experts, so easy to find at the push of a button, disappeared with the Wifi. Not that everyone who hangs up a virtual shingle is truly an expert, but like a sailor to a siren, we easily get drawn to voices of authority.
I watched Footloose instead. I didn’t want to, but I got pulled in with the first bit of conflict. Who knew Kevin Bacon could dance like that? And it was more than his exquisite pivots that pulled me in—it was a forgotten art that kept me sitting on the couch.
It was how good storytelling can impact a culture.
Here is the plot summary from IMDb:
When teenager Ren McCormack and his family move from big-city Chicago to a small Midwestern town, he’s in for a real case of culture shock. Though he tries hard to fit in, the streetwise Ren can’t quite believe he’s living in a place where rock music and dancing are illegal. However, there is one small pleasure: Ariel Moore, a troubled but lovely blonde with a jealous boyfriend. And a Bible-thumping minister, who is responsible for keeping the town dance-free. Ren and his classmates want to do away with this ordinance, especially since the senior prom is around the corner, but only Ren has the courage to initiate a battle to abolish the outmoded ban and revitalize the spirit of the repressed townspeople.
Reverend Moore is so focused on his Reverend title, he’s forgotten why he does what he does—he’s become a Pharisee. Armed with answers for everything, he solves nothing.
Ren opens up the Bible at a town meeting, and points to where dance is referenced as a celebration. The holy word of God, the instruction book for all reverends reminds them dancing is good. “That’s all we’re doing. We’re celebrating.” he
I thought about this as I paused the movie to cut a sunroof in my kid’s cardboard box castle outside. I thought about it as I stopped the movie as my kids walked through so they wouldn’t see Areil’s boyfriend hit her, and hear the swear words flow free.

How much protection is good for them after all? Will they learn enough by me telling them what’s right and wrong, or do I show them more reality? After all, Ren learned how to dance through his problems.
My favorite things about the movie? The Reverend and Ren gained a mutual respect for each other, and the kids got their prom. The minister’s wife stayed with him through all of his not-so-nice years….and her support is what allowed him to humbly admit he was wrong.
Today, you’re either the good guy or the bad guy. You’re either a Democrat or a Republican. Today, it’s okay to publicly humiliate your enemy and forever remain an enemy, and it’s okay to spin all the answers off the end of your tongue even if you don’t stop to think about what you’re really saying.
But in one movie in 1984, the good guys and bad guys could solve problems together.
Maybe it’s time my kids should see and hear a little bit more so we can discuss virtual matters before they become reality–so they don’t get too accustomed to being told what to think without forming their own opinions.
I hope they never forget that to have the credentials of God’s children, they must experience fun on a regular basis.

Opposite Day


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I think George Costanza had it right when he initiated opposite day. Who doesn’t get tired of the same regurgitated memes we’re exposed to on a daily basis? After all, the world doesn’t need more followers.

For example, I already know Top Ramen is bad for me—I really don’t need a picture of what it looks like in someone’s intestines. You know what? I bet kale looks pretty gross in the intestines too. Or celery, or tofu…

And I’ll be so glad when the elections are over with and dealing with the stress of who’s going to win because it seems most of us are greatlycat-1333926_1920 concerned this time around, regardless of party. The word of the day (every day) is doomed. You know what can happen, though? The opposite. Once upon a time, there was a womanizing, greedy drunk who got himself into politics, had an awakening so to speak, and saved the lives of 1,200 Jewish people. His name was Oskar Schindler. So who knows? Maybe a hero will be birthed from this mess.

Here’s another idea I’d love to hear the opposite of: “Your kids will be exposed to all kinds of stuff in public school.” You know what they’ll get exposed to? The world in which we live (I consider that good preparation).

My intention here is not to criticize, in fact, we all get an overabundance of that don’t we? I read in Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts that making a daily list of all the things we’re thankful for can change our hearts, attitudes, and quality of living. So I’ve started my own. It helps, even if the kids are fighting and throwing things in the car, I can say (after I go a bit mad-mama),  thank you for my family, thank you for our working car, thank you for the beautiful bird…that just pooped on my car…

But wait! This is where we learn our sense of humor, right? I can be mad at that bird, or realize that God’s teaching me how to smile through the midst of all the $#*!.
(I never write $#*!, but it’s opposite day, so why not?)

Just go forth into this Monday a happy leader…and beware the Dark Side.