Just the Fax

Wonderful opportunities come my way as a result of having access to a Fax machine.

I have had several offers for bargain weekend accommodations at Branson or Cancun. I’ve never taken advantage of these invitations. I’m just a little skeptical. I have to wonder what sort of hotel room is available in a resort town for the price they quote. “Certain restrictions apply”? “Available only during hurricane season”? or “Double occupancy only”?

I know. Usually the “guests” are subjected to a hard-sell presentation for a time-share somewhere in the vicinity. So much for the vacation lures.

However, a fax message that caught my attention recently stated that I am pre-approved for a $69,000 small business loan. Whoa! I don’t own a small business but I might just start one. After all, I’m pre-approved.

My latest correspondence informed me that I am “being considered for inclusion into the 2017 Women of Distinction …”  I will be listed among “the most accomplished professionals . . . for having expert status” in my field. All I have to do is fill out the form and fax it back in. (It’s interesting they want to include me when they don’t even know my name.)

What is it about my life that inspired this recognition? I’m a Mom, a Grandma, and a (Great) Grandma Dot. I will admit I excel at that. When I kiss a boo boo it stays kissed.

I’m a writer. Wow! How exciting if I were being honored for my fiction. But, alas, I doubt it.

I’m also an amateur actor. But applause during the curtain call is really all the kudos I need there.

I’m a secretary, which is the position that gives me access to the fax. Perhaps this is where I have gained distinction. I answer the phone promptly – usually – and operate a mean copy machine. I can shred like nobody’s business. I can also perform “other duties as assigned.” Let’s face it, a good secretary/ administrative assistant keeps the place running and everyone on task, but seldom wins awards for her/his job performance. Satisfaction comes from knowing that the lowest person on the totem pole is often what holds up the whole cotton-picking totem pole.

So, there it is. Fill out the form and be included in the Secretary Hall of Fame. I’m being seriously considered. Maybe even pre-approved.

 

And the TP Controversy Lives On

What a surprise for me to find that some were offended by my letter to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

I was trying to be funny.

Okay. One of the first things writers learn is that humor is subjective. What amuses one, goes over their neighbor’s head. What makes one laugh, might anger another. Someone takes your hyperbole literally. Perhaps I should have put quote marks around “wrong.”

What I had hoped to convey (in a humorous way) is how we pass over the important issues and let the trivial raise our hackles. It was (supposed to be) a hint that maybe we all should lighten up a bit. Another thing writers hear is: don’t try to explain your humor. So I’m done with that.

However, I was NOT criticizing the artist. If I knew his/her name I would give credit. I would never be critical of anyone who can draw a picture in which the object is recognizable.

While I may be stupid, as one insinuated, that is a matter of opinion. I am not ignorant (there’s a difference) to the original instructions for hanging toilet paper. I knew the U.S. Patent office cleared that up years ago.

I just find it ludicrous that anyone who doesn’t live in my house should care so deeply about how I install the TP roll. Again, an attempt at humor.

So, consider me properly chastised. Now we can get back to the important issues.

Is it INvelope or AHNvelope?

The uncredited drawing appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on February 17 and again on February 18, 2017. The letter to the editor appeared February 22. This post is not intended to speak in any way to the issue the Op-ed and Editorial addressed.

How Sweet Are His Words

Sweeter than honey

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

In addition to preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child, the Advent season (or pre-Christmas) is also the time for getting together with friends. These gatherings always seem to include food. Pot luck dinners, or ‘bring your favorite party food’ or even Cookies with Santa, all challenge us in our quest to eat mostly healthy food.

For several years, one of my New Year’s resolutions was “lose ten pounds.”  Every January, I set the same goal. I never achieved it, more often than not I gained. To lose weight I needed to adjust my teen-age eating habits to my aging metabolism. Or, as the old joke goes, grow taller until my height/weight ratio was correct.

I readily confess that I don’t eat only when I’m hungry. I eat because I love the taste of food. And it has occurred to me that if I consumed God’s word with the same enthusiasm, I would be a Bible scholar.

What better time to start the habit/discipline of reading the Bible than during Advent, the time set aside for preparing for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Start at the beginning of Luke and read about His birth, flip over to Matthew to read Joseph’s point of view. Continue through the book of Luke to learn about Jesus’ life and ministry and then read Acts to see what happened next.

Join me in feasting on His Words: Sweeter than honey.

 

A Writer’s Retreat

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs draws writers from across the United States (and Canada, I’m told). The enticement is the uninterrupted hours for writing, reading, respite from the rat race, spiritual nurturing, or all of the above.

Rather than a B & B, Dairy Hollow is a “bed and dinner.” There is coffee in each suite. Add a granola bar and that is enough for me. It is much preferred to having to wake and be presentable at 8:00 am for community breakfast. As a contrast, it’s nice to stop after hours of work and walk down to the dining room to meet with fellow residents for a gourmet meal.

WCDH consists of two fifties-era houses – one in the Usonian style – and both built on a hill with entrances on all levels. What I euphemistically call a suite is a bedroom with private bath and office area with wifi.

The bathroom in my suite, Spring Garden, has a pink tub and lavatory (no shower). The tiled walls are pink, yellow, and lime green. The space is rather narrow and one day, exiting the tub, I touched my bare backside to the rather cold tile wall. Quite an attention-getter.

The room includes a four-poster bed with the most comfortable mattress I have experienced away from home and a large chair for curling up to read.

Besides needing to make some strides in my latest fiction project, I used this time as a spiritual retreat. This year I completed the study Not a Silent Night, by Adam Hamilton. This unique take on the life of Mary (the mother of Jesus) stretches the mind a bit and allows us to see Jesus from Mary’s point of view.

The trip was made with my BFF Pat and we are very good co-travelers. We agreed totally on the stop at Ferguson’s on the way for a huge cinnamon roll and coffee. Coming home, lunch was at the Daisy Queen in Marshall for a fantastic burger and shake.

I arrived home on Saturday, October 31. I gave my loan trick-or-treater (a five-year-old friend named Cameron) a Slim Jim from a partial package I had in the pantry, then turned off my porch light.

Today, Sabbath — day of rest, I rode the church bus, attended Sunday School, assisted as liturgist in worship, took communion to the nursing home, picked up the dog at the boarder, put out the recycling for First Monday, and attended a Church Council meeting. Tomorrow back to my day job.

My re-entry to reality.

 

I’m Not Lost; I’m Just Not Sure Where I Am

Adventures are more fun when shared with a friend, right?  This year I thought I might miss the Arkansas Writers’ Conference entirely, but almost last-minute decided I could go on Saturday to the last day of the event.

I volunteered to drive to the North Little Rock campus of Pulaski Tech College, and duly printed off the directions.  I left my house before 7:00 a.m. to pick up Kayla, my young-enough-to-be-my-granddaughter friend from the White County Creative Writers’ group.

I know where she lives. I’ve been there before. It’s on a corner. But as I cruised around the Kamack addition, I couldn’t seem to find either of the streets I needed to locate her corner.

Have I ever mentioned here that I am directionally challenged? I have lived in Beebe 15 years but am still able to lose my way going from point A to point B.

Of course I finally found her house, however, this beginning was a foreshadow of how the day was going to go.

We actually made it to the conference on time with no problems, after we figured out that exit 152B is off I-40 rather than Highway 67/167.

The morning sessions were wonderful, full of good speakers and learning. Kayla was able to pitch her book to a publisher. Since neither of us had registered early enough to be in the lunch count, we dashed out to find something to eat.

We stopped at the first food place we saw which, when we stepped inside, looked like Botulism City. Silently agreeing/ hoping that the hot grease would kill most germs, we ordered take out and rushed back to have lunch on Pulaski Tech’s patio. The Lord’s hand was on us and neither of us got sick.

After a stimulating afternoon, we started the trek home. The idea was to read the directions that had brought us there and ‘flip flop’. But when I arrived at the place where I had exited I-40 East I saw no directions on how to get onto I-40 West. Nor did I see any instructions on the other side of the underpass.

So I continued straight ahead. This was after all a busy thoroughfare. Surely it would lead me to more familiar territory. In time, I came to HWY 107.

“I’ve heard of HWY 107,” I said. “It should intersect with a street I know.”

I turned onto that highway, using the western sun to choose my direction, the North Star being unavailable.

After we had gone a few miles, Kayla reached in her purse and said, “I’ll just get my phone and turn on the GPS.”

“YOU HAVE A GPS?” I inquired.

She queried 67/167 and we immediately heard the voice saying to turn right the next chance we got. I saw the Sherwood city limit sign and breathed a sigh of relief. Oh good, we’re still in Arkansas.

Of course we found 67/167 just south of Jacksonville and in due time made it home.  An adventurous day well spent.

 

My friend Kayla is Kayla Shown-Dean, free lance writer and author of Muted. Check out her website and blog here.

For all the kids who tried to tell

The guests are arriving. The photographer has taken pictures of our parents. All is ready. Now, I need to decide if I’m going through with this or not.

The first strains of a classical melody drifted in from the sanctuary, the signal to Annie’s brothers to seat the guests. Her mother was putting the final touches on Cameron’s flower basket.

Annie frowned at the thought of her daughter. The five-year-old disliked Jeff but surely that was jealousy. Understandable for a young child suddenly having to share her mommy with someone new.

At first Cameron took to Jeff and he reciprocated, taking her on outings and buying her special toys. But as Annie and Jeff became closer, the child’s hostility grew. Her mother said Cameron was just spoiled.

In every other way, her relationship with Jeff was perfect. Annie could not believe she had found someone so caring. There had never been so much as a minor disagreement between them. Jeff brushed away every concern with a reasonable explanation … and a kiss.

Until last night. Right after the rehearsal dinner Annie’s maid of honor came to her with a story that was circulating. Rumors of accusations by a member of Jeff’s soccer team.

Though it was late, Annie called him. They needed to talk about this. Again, he took her in his arms and calmed her.

“Don’t say you believe this!” he sounded incredulous. “She’s just a kid. Who believes a kid.”

Now sitting in the bride’s room at the church, her friends and family gathering upstairs, she realized it was at that moment she first thought of cancelling her wedding.

Who believes a kid? She’d heard those exact words before.

She was six or seven. Uncle Joe had taken all the kids on a nature walk. Everyone said how sweet that Joe loved children … what a pity he had none of his own. He let them away from the others at the picnic. Then he taught them the Touching Game. He called it a secret game. They all played until one little girl began to cry. Joe scolded her, calling her a baby. He said something terrible would happen if anyone told their secret. Then, he laughed. “Even if you tell, no one will believe you. Who believes a kid?”

In spite of Joe’s warning Annie had tried to tell. A week after the picnic, she said to her mother, “I don’t like Uncle Joe.”

“Of course you do. Uncle Joe is a kind man who loves children. He’s our blood relative and I don’t ever want to hear you say you don’t like one of your own kin.”

So, Annie didn’t speak of it again. Uncle Joe never came to another reunion. Annie had no idea why. Maybe one of the other children told. Maybe a grown-up listened.

Annie stared into the mirror with horror. What had she said to Cameron when the child told her she didn’t like Jeff? Was her daughter wanting to tell her more? Needing her to ask the right question, Why? Why doesn’t Cameron like Jeff?

She stood and ran from the room. Holding up the satin skirt, she took the stairs two at a time. She needed to find her daughter. And ask the question.

…..

Excerpted from “The Right Question”, Everyday a New Day and other short stories. (c) 2006

I Don’t Need No Special Day

Dot Hatfield

If God called me to any task in this life, it must be to be a Mom. My entrance into this adventure began in 1953, when I was not quite 20 years old.

I’ve been a mom, a step-mom, a grandma, and most recently a “Grandma Dot”, dubbed such by great-grands. I have been a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a single mom, a mother-and grandmother-in-law. Dot HatfieldIn 1989 I joined the ranks of 1.5 million seniors raising children they did not give birth to. From that I became a guardian, foster and finally an adoptive (aka ‘real’) mom.

I know I made some mistakes, but I must have done a fairly good job. I have a pillow that says “Greatest Mom in the Entire Universe”. What more can I say?

It’s strange that almost anywhere one applies for a job, experience is required. Yet, becoming a parent was a duty I took on with no experience whatsoever and from then on it was OJT (on the job training).

I learned the rhetorical questions: “Are you trying to drive me crazy?”

The dire predictions: “That balloon is going to pop.”

The astute observations: “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t tied on.”

Still, it’s not learning those things that made me a mother. It’s the wiping tears and shedding tears. It’s the praying and protecting. It’s the caring and the counseling. And, it’s the letting go.

That’s the hardest thing a parent is called on to do. Whether it’s 5-years-old going to kindergarten, an 18-year-old leaving for college or work, or a thirty-something moving off and taking your grandchildren with them — Moms want to hold onto their children, see them, talk to them often. Just to make sure they’re okay.

Years ago, my sister-in-law shared this thought with me:

“You visualize yourself holding your charges in your hands, shielding them from the world, caring for them. Then, you place your hands inside God’s hands. Next, you slowly remove your hands. Now your loved ones are in God’s hands. You have placed them there and they couldn’t be in a safer place.”

I am truly blessed in my role as Mother. It’s fun. My children don’t wait for a special day to let me know I am loved. I feel it every day. Love you guys!

 

Words Words Words

When my youngest son was in 3rd grade, the teacher would give the class new spelling words each Monday. Their assignment was to return on Tuesday with their  definition of the word. Then the class would use the dictionary to see how close they had come to the correct meaning.

One week, ‘disappoint’ was on the list. Phillip said the meaning of that word was “to make someone mad at you.” I got the message. Someone — probably me or a caregiver — had said to my little boy “I’m disappointed in you,” in a voice that conveyed not disappointment but anger.

When I shared this with the teacher, she said more than half the class gave similar answers.

We hear a word used in a certain context and either because of body language or context we assume its meaning. I was grown before I realized that ‘cohorts’ didn’t mean ‘partners in crime,’ my frame of reference being Jesse James and his ‘cohorts.’

According to my F in Exams daily calendar, a high school student answered a test question: Romeo and Juliet is written entirely in Islamic pentameter.

An acquaintance once told me she had been invited to several holiday parties and needed ‘to retaliate.’  I’m sure she meant reciprocate, but then again . . .

I read this week that ‘irregardless’ is now a considered a word. Not a particularly good word, but it has been used enough to gain that distinction. That’s sad.

Does all this mean that when someone facebooks ‘time is going to fast’ that it might indicate life is swiftly passing us by? Or does it mean it will soon be too late to take part in an ancient spiritual discipline?

Sigh.

 

 

The Fourth Week of Advent

Mary, the Chosen One

God sent the angel Gabriel to speak to Mary. The message Gabriel brought? God wanted Mary to play a special role in his divine plan. Even though she was an unlikely candidate for the job. Females in Jewish society were not seen as persons of much value. They were often considered property. They had no rights of their own; certainly a woman would not be seen as one who could have a hand in saving the world.

How shocking that God chose a young virgin to bear God’s son. But, that’s the way it is with God. He calls unlikely people. God didn’t ask Mary if she was willing. He expected her to obey.

Mary asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, but he didn’t explain exactly how the Virgin Birth would work. He told her God would take care of things. God would be with her.

That was enough.

With a gigantic leap of faith, Mary accepted God’s call.

When God calls us to a task, may we be as courageous as Mary and Joseph.  May it be enough for us to know God will always be with us and that with God nothing is impossible.

 

The Third Week of Advent

Nativity Scene

GOD’S GIFT TO US

Isn’t it amazing how quickly things become hackneyed?  Whether it’s fashion — skirts long or short, toes round or pointed — celebrities who come and go in popularity, hobbies we take up that begin to bore us, or relationships we out grow. Things we couldn’t live without — the boat, the rifle, the car, the house, the job — soon lose their newness and appeal and we are ready for something different, more exciting and challenging. Eventually, most of our interests become so trite, so… so… last week.

When the children of Israel were starving, and I mean starving in the wilderness, God gave them manna, fresh every morning, a miracle just for them. They were so grateful for this new versatile food. But before long they grew tired of the same old thing day after day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They cried that they longed for a change in diet. Manna, God’s special miracle for his children, had become so last week.

In his indescribable love, God gave us the gift of his Son. God loved the world so much — he loved me and you so much — that he gave his son.

This is almost too great to comprehend. How could I ever feel blasé about it? How could I ever tire of the story of his birth, told in narrative and song, celebrated with friends and family in places decorated with lights and symbols of the nativity?

The story of how Christ came to live among us never grows cliché. The gift God gave us is experienced fresh and new every year when this season arrives, every week as we worship together, every day, every moment we choose to bask in the great love God has for us.