Sunday, May 5, 2024

In the Wind

As fellow writer Lisbeth says, "we have just so much ‘schtick’" when it comes to making presentations. So whenever I’m asked to speak, I try adjust my schtick to be to relevant and (hopefully) entertaining to the particular group I’m addressing. Recently, when my friend Rhonda asked me to speak to her ladies organization, I spent several hours honing my usual material into a customized presentation for them. I also spent a good deal of time practicing my delivery.

Since this presentation wasn’t going to involve Powerpoint, I decided to go old school and use paper notes. (Does anyone do that anymore?) But I figured paper would be less cumbersome than hauling my laptop and worrying about technology glitches—which have been known to occur. I know younger folks—that means anyone younger than I—rely on their phones these days, but for me that also presents its own set of problems. So paper it was.

The morning of the meeting, I gathered my books and promo material into a basket, adding my notes as the last item. As I loaded all my paraphernalia into my car, I double checked that the notes were there, and I distinctly remember thinking, “You’d be in a world of hurt without these.” A foreboding?

I arrived at my destination in plenty of time, confident I’d done all I could—including praying— to ensure my presentation would go smoothly. It was a windy day in Oklahoma—no surprise there—and I pushed my hair out of my eyes as I retrieved the basket from my car. I walked toward the building, greeting a few people on my way. Rhonda met me at the door and directed me to the meeting room.

I began setting up my display: books? check; bookmarks? check; business cards? check; newsletter sign-up list? check; notes? …. notes? NOTES???!!!

I frantically searched the basket. I flipped through the calendar I’d brought as well as several books. I inspected my money bag. Not yet going into full-blown panic, I returned to my car, certain the notes must’ve fallen out there. Nope. 

Now I was panicking. 

The phrase “in the wind” is traditionally used to indicate "about or

likely to happen" as in "a company takeover is in the wind." But I became familiar with a different meaning   two years ago when I read Rembrandt Is In the Wind (which I highly recommend) by Russ Ramsey. I’ve heard the phrase a few times since, most recently in a mafia movie: “I’m afraid Benny is in the wind.” It’s a great metaphor for gone, disappeared, vanished, scattered to a far corner of the earth never to be seen again. In the case of the mafia movie, it was code for Benny is resting at the bottom of a landfill. 

In the midst of my panic, that phrase came to me. The only logical conclusion was that on my way into the building, my notes had blown out of my basket. In my case, “in the wind” meant spread across five Oklahoma counties

I had a few minutes before my talk. I breathed deeply, waited for my blood pressure to lower, collected my thoughts, and once again prayed. In the back of the calendar I’d brought, I quickly jotted down what I remembered from my notes.

In the end, all went well. Fortunately, I remembered most of my talk since I’d practiced it so many times. I confessed my situation to the women gathered, a gracious and understanding group. As I spoke, I grew relaxed and felt I was talking with friends. 

When I was leaving, I laughed with Rhonda about the incident, and she shared with me something she’d recently learned in a Beth Moore Bible study. Moore had advised women that whenever they found themselves in a panicky situation to ask the question, “What’s the worst that will probably happen here?” 

I thought about that question and came up with my personal answer: Nothing that, with God’s help, I can’t handle—even when my best laid plans end up "in the wind."

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Sermon on the Sitcom

You can credit this post to daylight savings time. It’s not that I forgot to set my clock forward, but that I didn’t feel like getting up an hour earlier. Fortunately, our church provides three Sunday morning services, so 
rather than attending my regular 8:30 service, I went at 11:00. 

That choice resulted in a little extra time that morning—time I could’ve spent in meditation or prayer, properly preparing myself for worship. Instead I chose to indulge in one more episode of a sitcom I’ve been bingeing on. (Spoiler alert! If you are not yet to Season 6 of Young Sheldon, you might want to stop reading here.) 

You’re probably wondering how a sitcom that is at times risqué and often irreverent could possibly qualify as sermon material. But if you’re a fan of the prequel to The Big Bang Theory, you know Young Sheldon presents some intriguing—and often hilarious—food for thought concerning many areas of life, including religion. It’s a lot of the ridiculous, a bit of the sublime.

The episode I watched that particular Sunday dealt with the sticky issue of a pre-marital pregnancy—the news that the Cooper family would soon be welcoming an unplanned new member. All the family were struggling in their own way with how to deal with this situation, but perhaps none more than Mary, the grandmother-to-be. 

Mary is the spiritual leader of her family. While her theology is sometimes a bit flawed, she has a good heart, and her faith is strong. She spends a lot of time in her personal prayer garden, trying to sort out with God the challenges of being a wife and mother in the worldly world of the 1990s. Her commitment to her church is also strong. She serves as church secretary and hosts a weekly Bible study. 

On the Sunday after learning of the pregnancy, Mary corrals her reluctant family into the church sanctuary. It’s going to be awkward. Mary knows the entire church now knows the Coopers’ little secret. But where better to sort out life’s trials than church?

I know sitcoms are supposed to make us laugh, but I was close to tears as I watched the Cooper family enter the sanctuary. I longed for Mary to find acceptance, comfort, solace in her Christian community but feared she would not. Sadly, my fear was realized. Mary and her family receive not just a cool but an openly hostile reception: disparaging looks, refusals to sit by them, refusals to join hands with them in prayer. To add insult to injury, the following week all the members of Mary’s Bible study cancel on her.

I wanted to blame this disappointing outcome on the show’s writers—Of course in the show-biz world there is no way they’re going to present Christians in a positive light.  But being honest with myself, I realized this wasn’t such a far-fetched, biased scenario—not in the 1990s and not today. 

I wasn’t finger-pointing at “other” Christians. I searched my own conscience for the times I’ve chosen judgment over grace—the kind of grace that doesn’t condone a difficult situation but offers understanding and the help to get through it. 

Duly convicted by my sitcom sermon, I proceeded to my church where I listened to another one taken from Psalm 23. That scripture passage assures us that God—unlike fellow Christians sometimes—will never desert those who trust in him. Like a faithful shepherd, he guides us through our most difficult trials and struggles—our personal “valley[s] of the shadow of death.”

I haven’t finished all the episodes of Young Sheldon yet, but as of the last one I watched, Mary has abandoned church. So far, she hasn’t been shown in her prayer garden either, suggesting she also may have abandoned God. But God hasn’t abandoned Mary, and I’m holding out hope that eventually her faith in him will be strong enough to overcome her disappointment with the church. And I’m wishing Mary Cooper could’ve heard that Psalm 23 sermon.

Friday, January 12, 2024

My Word for 2024 -- Meditate

In 2018, rather than making resolutions (which held a slim chance of being kept) I began  choosing a word on which to focus throughout the year. With the exception of 2022 in which I focused on songs, I’ve stuck to that practice and feel it has served me well. When the words are positive—joy, hope, community, shine, goodness—it is truly surprising how they can provide inspiration and encouragement throughout the year, even on those days that aren’t going so great. 

For 2024, I first considered the word abide. So many good definitions and Bible verses are associated with that word. In fact, just this morning, our pastor delivered a sermon on abiding, and I was tempted to revert to it. Rather than struggling with writing this post, I could just plagiariz borrow his words—giving due credit, of course.

But I stuck to my final choice: meditate. I arrived at this word because after checking the definitions of abide, I came to the conclusion that dwelling or remaining in the place I wanted required arriving there first. I thought meditation would be one good way--among others--to get to that place. To confirm this belief, I checked the definitions of meditate: 1) to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect 2) to engage in devout religious contemplation, or quiet spiritual introspection. Synonyms include ponder, consider, think, deliberate, study. Some scripture synonyms I found—continue, dwell, remember, muse, treasure, be absorbed, and, perhaps my favorite in The Message translation, “chew on.” 

Attempts at meditation aren’t new to me, but I admit I struggle. The problem comes from emptying my mind of all non-meditation-worthy thoughts. For some reason, the moment my mind receives the message I’m going to meditate, it decides to offer up for consideration every thought, situation, activity, worry, etc. it can conceive of. Eyes opened, eyes closed, deep breathing, different positions, different activities—they all help to a degree but I’ve yet to master the pathway to truly deep, meaningful meditation. Perhaps that's because the method isn't as important as the motivation and the focus of my meditating.

Perhaps how we meditate isn't as important as ...

why and on what we meditate.

I looked up Bible passages that instruct as to why we should meditate as well as on what we should meditate. Here are just a few of the many:


“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

 On What

“I will ponder all your work, and mediate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:12

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

I’ll keep you posted on my journey. Perfect meditation is not my goal, and I know it isn’t a requisite for abiding. I suspect meditation and abiding go hand-in-hand rather in chronological order. Maybe working on my meditation will enhance my abiding...and vice versa. And maybe I already have my word for next year!

Sunday, October 29, 2023


I was blindsided. I was innocently minding my own business at a book promotion event, when I looked at the table next to me. The vendor was selling writing software. To gather attention and contacts, he was raffling off some amigurumi otters, the otter being the mascot for his company Plottr.

If you’re wondering, amigurumi is the Japanese art of crocheting small, stuffed dolls and animals. I wasn’t the only person intrigued by those adorable crocheted critters. They attracted a steady stream of admirers. Neither was I the only one to try to buy one. But the only way to acquire an otter was through entering a raffle or purchasing the software.

Some examples of amigurumi. You can see the appeal!

The wheels in my brain were spinning. I’m not above steal borrowing a smart marketing idea. The characters in my two children’s books would lend themselves perfectly to this craft. The only thing I had to figure out was how to acquire some amigurumi bearded dragons and frogs.

Excellent candidates for amigurumi, right?

This proved to be more difficult than I’d imagined. Purchasing them was possible (yes, there were even amigurumi bearded dragons), but out of my price range at approximately $30 a pop. After much deliberation, I decided I’d try to make them myself. Way back in the seventies, I’d had some experience with granny squares. How much harder could frogs and lizards be? At the advice of a crocheting friend, I scoured YouTube for instructions. 

 As it turns out, amigurumi is much tougher than crocheting granny squares. Just mastering the “magic circle”—the starting point for all amigurumi—is challenging. But many frustrating hours and failed attempts later, I got the hang of it. With a few bearded dragon and frog heads under my belt, I moved on to other creatures. 

Having mastered frog and lizard heads,
 I was ready to move on!

There are so many options, and they are so cute! So far, I’ve created Halloween ghosts and rats and spiders. Thanksgiving pumpkins came next. I’ll soon be moving on to Christmas stars and snowflakes and Santa hats.
From Halloween goblins to ...

Thanksgiving pumpkins

What's next? Santa Ron?

No one warned me this was going to be habit forming. I’m becoming like those gardeners who chase down neighbors, friends, and people who have the misfortune of crossing their paths to give them zucchini. People see me coming with my crocheted offerings and refuse to answer their doorbells. You’ve probably seen those Facebook memes of crocheted car seat covers and crocheted men’s suits. I used to laugh at those; now I realize they are signs of a sickness. 

I no longer laugh at Facebook posts like these.

Dust is gathering on every flat surface in my house; dishes are piling up in the sink; laundry baskets are spilling over. But the crochet hook is flying. In fact, the other day I could swear I smelled smoke. Does anyone know where I can purchase fireproof yarn?

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Goodness of Gray-ness

When I made the decision to quit coloring my gray hair back in my fifties, I thought I was on the cutting (or coloring) edge. But funny thing, once my hair was grown out to its full, natural gray, I looked around and discovered I wasn’t quite the rebel I thought I was.

Maybe I found myself in a lot of good company because at the time I decided to embrace the gray, other baby boomer women were also maturing, at least as far as hair follicles are concerned. There were a lot of us, and our number was rapidly increasing.

For this large demographic group, I think part of the decision to go gray was because this generation of women was the first to liberate itself in so many ways. Remember bra-burning and birth control pills? No strangers to freedom, this aging population was now ready to embrace freedom from the time- and money-draining drudgery of hair-coloring.

Whatever their reason for doing so, women who embraced their “natural frost,” suddenly started standing out to me. Whenever we passed in public, I felt compelled to give them some kind of secret sign, acknowledging our camaraderie. After all, we were part of a sisterhood that knew the goodness of going gray. 

Occasionally I consider reverting to my darker hair color. These moments of weakness occur mainly when I see myself in photos, where basically all I see is my “glowing” hair. I guess I could claim that glow was my halo, but I doubt I could get away with that. Those reconsiderations are rare and fleeting, however. When I really think about it, a good picture isn’t worth all the time, expense, and hassle of a dye job. 

I’m further encouraged to stay gray when I observe the beautiful women who have made the same choice. In my exercise classes, I often look around and admire the “fifty shades” of gray appearing there—shades ranging from platinum to salt-and-pepper to steely silver. With a good cut and quality hair-care products, gray can be every bit as lovely as blond, brunette, auburn, purple, pink … In my humble opinion, any color that is shiny, healthy, and well-maintained can be an asset to a woman’s appearance. 

Three of the many beautiful shades of
gray in my exercise class.

These days, the over-fifty, sixty, seventy? woman who decides to go gray doesn’t have to resort to the short, permed, blue-tinted hairstyle of her grandmother. Wearing her "crown" of silver, she can hold her head high and know that she is in the company of many very regal—and liberated—women.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

This One's for the Girls--Barbie and Lucinda (Who the heck is Lucinda?!)

I accepted my daughter’s analysis that I wasn’t the target audience for the Barbie movie and decided not to contribute to the film’s box-office, mega-dollars success. My disappointment over not seeing the movie was minimal. I’d owned the original Barbie in her iconic, black-and-white-swimsuit days and admittedly was smitten by her glamorous appearance and luxurious, bespoke wardrobe. But by the time Barbie got all pink-y and started acquiring houses and cars and yachts, I’d outgrown my Barbie phase (which is a good thing because I never could've afforded to keep Barbie in the lavish lifestyle she'd come to expect).

But then America Ferrera’s monologue and all the brouhaha it instigated—both pro and con—started showing up on social media. I tried to practice restraint and refrain from weighing in, but as I recently read in a book, what good is it to practice restraint when no one knows you’re practicing it? Off to the Barbie movie I went so that I could be an “informed” participant in the imbroglio.

From the moment I entered the theater lobby, it became apparent my daughter’s analysis was spot on: I was not the target audience. I felt no urge to don a sparkly pink hat or drape a pink feather boa around my neck and pose for a picture in front of a giant pink Barbie poster. (Although now I wish I had. Would've made a great photo for this post, and pink is a very good color for me.) Furthermore, if forced to sum up the movie, my response would be “hot mess.” 

I could sort of follow the plot and grasp the themes, but I caught very few of the movie’s nuances, innuendoes, allusions. I thought the music and dancing were . . . meh. There is no arguing that Margot Robbie is beautiful, but the clothing styles, while “cute,” were nothing to excite my “mature” fashion taste. I’m not suggesting these are shortcomings on the movie-makers’ part. Like I said, I wasn’t the target audience. 

Regarding Ferrera’s monologue (I know I’m treading on thin ice here), to me it came across as a bit of a whine. I think a lot of the negative responses sound whiny as well. A few days ago my friend Martha re-posted from Journey of a Mountain Woman Facebook Page which tells of the hardships of previous generations of women. The post reminded me of a poem I taught years ago in American literature about a pioneer woman named Lucinda Matlock. From the grave she told of a life filled with hard work, joys, and heartaches—among the heartaches, burying eight of her twelve children. I’ve linked to the entire poem, but am quoting the final lines here:

What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness?

Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?

Degenerate sons and daughters,

Life is too strong for you—

It takes life to love Life.

This leads to my one, clear take-away from the Barbie movie--a good and important one. Barbie ultimately chooses the “real” world over her perfect but artificial Barbie-land existence, reminding me of yet another favorite literary passage. In The Velveteen Rabbit, The Skin Horse is explaining to the Rabbit what it means to be Real. “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept . . . once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

Even with its messiness, inequities, and imperfect humans, Barbie deems life in the real world worth the pain and frustration. And just like Lucinda and the Skin Horse, she realizes she will have to be strong and resilient to handle its challenges. That’s a theme this non-targeted, septuagenarian viewer can get on board with.

As luck would have it, right in the middle of all my Barbie-movie reflecting, the instructor played this song in my exercise class. (Note: I work out to be healthy, not skinny. 😉) Hope it imparts a positive message for every woman! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Goodness of Good Neighbors . . . and Chainsaws

A few nights ago in Oklahoma, the wind did not come “sweeping down the plain.” Instead, it came ripping and snorting with the fury of a rodeo bull charging from the gate. I’m no stranger to strong winds. I’ve experienced hurricane- and tornado-force winds, so Mother Nature doesn’t easily scare me (except for snakes and bears). But I’ve never heard wind howl as loud as it did that night, and although I wasn’t exactly panicking, I was working myself into . . . let’s just say an elevated state of concern. 

Around 1 AM, my husband Bill informed me the tree that used to be beside our driveway was now in our driveway. (Oh, the difference a tiny preposition makes!) But hearing the wind settling down and being fairly certain no other trees would be crashing to the ground, I fell asleep. Around 7 AM, I got up and went outside to inspect the damage.

As it turns out, the tree had landed partially in the driveway and partially on our roof. Moving it and freeing our cars from the garage was going to be no small job. The thirty-year-old Bradford pear had towered approximately thirty feet tall, and if you’ve ever dealt with a fallen tree, you know the space it occupies when standing exponentially increases when it hits the ground. I estimated it would take at least a couple of days—depending on how soon we could get someone to do the work—and anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to make our driveway passable.

I went inside to get some coffee and change into work clothes. By the time I got back outside, neighbors from two different families had joined Bill and were hard at work. Armed with clippers, pruners, handsaws, and a hand-sized chainsaw, parents and kids were all excitedly sawing, clipping, and dragging limbs into a pile. Our next-door neighbor climbed onto the roof to wrap a rope around the branch that rested there. Cheers broke out when the huge branch eventually fell to the ground.

It soon became apparent that in order to make further progress, we would have to call for reinforcement. Our neighbor from the opposite end of the street answered the call, arriving on the scene with his seven-year-old son and a heavy-duty chainsaw in tow. Now things were really buzzing. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) We were beginning to attract a small audience because what better entertainment than men with chainsaws and axes? After wielders of chainsaws and axes had done their work, everyone—moms, dads, sisters, brothers—loaded the heavier pieces of wood into a pickup and toted them away. In a matter of a few hours, our driveway was cleared and our cars liberated.


This entire account just oozes with goodness. In times when media in any form would have us believe people's favorite pastime is fighting, this was a prime example of people coming together to help. No bickering, no thoughts of political or religious differences. Just good-hearted people happy to help out a neighbor with a difficult task.   

But here’s the real goodness. This incident took place on a Sunday morning that also happened to be Father’s Day. I know these families normally attend church on Sunday mornings, but this Sunday they had taken time to put their faith into action. I couldn’t help thinking the entire time we were working how these dads—and moms—were teaching their children by example the joy that comes from helping a friend. And I know for a fact this wasn’t the first time those children had witnessed that lesson.