Splash! Splash! Groan!

In the 1930’s songwriter Lew Brown said, “Life is just a bowl of cherries.” He evidently considered that description accurate enough to turn it into a hit song.

A few decades later, Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” (Well, it was really his mama who said it, but he believed it. By the way, you don’t want to know what I think of that piece of condescending, cinematic buffoonery. Ooooops, I think I just told you.  But I digress ….)

This week, after having to stop what I was doing and clean up my floor — twice — I decided I might as well throw in my two cents’ worth on the subject of life. Personally, I’ve about decided that life is like puddles of spilled coffee. They are an aggravation. They are messes that have to be cleaned up. But neither of those facts keeps me from wanting more coffee. They do, however, keep me working harder at trying to keep the coffee in the cup for drinking purposes, rather than using it to mop the floor.

No applause please. It’s just another pearl of great wisdom from my pet oyster.




22 “Interesting Things” You Can Do When You Retire

Thinking about retiring? Looking for something to fill your days? Here’s my list of “interesting things” you can do IF you retire:

Count Your Fingers: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.”

Count Your Toes: “11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.”


21. Twiddle Your Thumbs: “Twiddle-dee, twiddle-dum, twiddle-dee …”

22. Contemplate Your Navel: “Hmmmmmmmm …”


I guess you’ve figured out that there is some kind of deep-seated, hidden message in this article. And you’re right. Here it is: I believe men and women should not retire. The very word retire – although we frequently use it to refer to leaving our paying employment – has inherent within it the meaning of pulling back, retreating, and becoming more secluded. And the root of the word – “tire” – means “to grow weary, diminish in strength, lose interest or become bored.” I just don’t like that word “retire.”

Now, If you have an 8:00 to 5:00 drudgery kind of job that you have had to work at for decades just to pay your bills, and you have an opportunity to trade it in for activity that you can enjoy more, certainly, say good bye to drudgery and try something new. But DO NOT retire. Stay involved in life to the fullest. Keep renewing your energy and your interests all your life. Be daring; try new things; experiment with activities that will challenge you and perhaps bring to light gifts and talents that you never realized you had.

And, above all, do things that positively affect other people. Be a giver. Expend your time, your energy, your abilities – yourself – in making life better for someone else. When you do that, your own life will continue to grow and thrive. Instead of retreating, you will be going forward – and really living – all of your life.



Image of feet, thanks to Clker.com

Joseph’s Decision — a short, short story

This story originally appeared on my blog last year, but only for a short time. I decided to enter it in a writing contest, and the rules of the contest required me to remove it from my public blog until the results were in. Now that the contest is over, I am posting the story anew. It did not find enough favor with the contest judges to be declared a winner, but no matter: it’s a winner to me.



Joseph sat on the bus, staring out the window, unseeing for the first twenty minutes. His mind just needed rest. So much data – so many words – such volatile emotions – too much to deal with right now. His eyes hurt from the glare of the sun, and he needed to close them for a while. Not yet, though. He couldn’t let himself – not so soon. He couldn’t bear to close himself up in his own private world – his own private hell. Not yet. He had to keep his eyes open so that light and color and motion would bombard his mind for at least a little while longer.

The knot in his chest had loosened some. Maybe that was due in part to the even rhythm of the moving bus and the almost imperceptible sound of the wheels against the hot pavement – things, no doubt, completely unnoticed by the majority of the passengers. But Joseph noticed. He seemed especially attuned to sounds and movement in a new way today. All of it seemed amplified somehow. He let out a deep sigh. I’m probably amplifying them in my own imagination, he thought, to keep my mind off the bitter news I just got.

Finally, thanks to the gentle rocking of the bus, he leaned his head against the back of the seat and let his eyelids drift shut. Another deep sigh. Okay, Joseph, it’s time to deal with it. You can do it, Joe.

He took a deep breath. There, that’s better. Another deep breath. That’s it, Joe. Slow and easy – in – and out – in – and out. See, you’re still alive and breathing. Nothing’s changed all that much.

His thoughts drifted back to Dr. Samuels’ office. He shivered slightly at the memory of how cold he’d felt sitting there on the examination table in just his undershirt and shorts. The sterile smell of the room still clung to his nostrils, and his mind replayed images of the signs on the walls describing various ailments and reminding doctors to wash their hands. He’d read every sign at least a dozen times over the past few years and knew them by heart, but he still read them every time. It was something to do while he waited for Dr. Samuels, and it kept his mind occupied so that he didn’t concentrate on how uncomfortable he always felt in doctors’ offices.

Prior to today’s appointment, he’d imagined numerous possible scenarios and played them over in his mind. Dr. Samuels might say this … and then I would say that … or … maybe he’ll tell me this, and I’ve already made up my mind what my answer will be to that. He closed his eyes a little tighter, stifling a low, mirthless chuckle. Funny – I never – not once – even considered a report like the one I got.

He felt something jostle his arm, so he opened his eyes, looking toward the empty seat on his left. A small, elderly lady had just sat down, and her purse had bumped his arm. “Oh, excuse me,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

He sat up a little straighter and gave his head a slight shake, hoping to clear it. He hadn’t even noticed the bus had stopped. He glanced out the window and realized they had already come half way to his destination. One more stop, and then he’d be at his own jumping off place. Home. It used to always give him a warm feeling to walk up the small concrete sidewalk, step up onto the little porch alcove with the rose trellis on either side, and open his front door to the cozy living room/office where he devoted hours to the work he loved so well.

Writing was his life – had been ever since his young adulthood. There had never been a marriage. He had hoped there would be a time or two, but it hadn’t worked out. And he wasn’t too sad about it. He had a good life – great friends – great audiences for his books – and a family of his own making. The characters that populated his best-selling novels had been born out of him, hadn’t they? And he loved them – everyone of them – even the villains. And many had been the days when he had rushed home, bursting through the front door with ideas literally pouring from his brain faster than he could get to the keyboard and turn them into words.

Well, Joe, it won’t be the same anymore. Everything’s changed now. He focused on the passing scene outside the window. He read a sign on one of the buildings. Then he read a street sign … and another. The bowling alley sign came next. He was seeing all of them for the zillionth time, but he read every word on every one. He had to keep himself from thinking anymore right now.

Finally the sign for his own stop came into view. As the driver made the announcement and slid the bus to a smooth stop, Joseph began to rise from his seat, but, suddenly, he realized his legs felt like lead. He sat back down momentarily, and the lady beside him looked concerned. “Are you all right, sir?”

He made a quick recovery and tried to smile at her. “Y – yes,” he answered. “I think my leg went to sleep. I’ll try to get up more slowly.”

He knew there was nothing wrong with his ability to walk. It was the result of the shock he’d had. The trauma of the news had been enough to shock a better man than he was. He focused all of his mental reserves on making his legs function normally, and finally managed to get up and move out into the aisle. From there, he moved by rote down the steps and through the door to the sidewalk.

As he started down the walk to the next block and his own house, he was amazed that everything around him looked exactly the same. The street looked the same. The traffic whizzed by as usual. The few people he passed looked normal. They spoke a word of greeting and smiled just as if he hadn’t changed at all. Yet his entire world had been wiped out with one simple sentence less than an hour ago.

The roses smelled the same as he stepped onto his porch and inserted his key in the lock. Stepping into the room, he let his eyes search out all the pieces of furniture and equipment that provided his comfortable, peaceful, productive life. He closed the door behind him and walked farther into the room. You’re home Joe. Really home … and it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s exactly the way you left it.

He started to genuinely relax for the first time since he’d stepped into Dr. Samuels’ office three hours ago. He pulled off his jacket, yanked his tie loose, and tossed it on the chair after the jacket. He walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of his favorite juice, downing half of it in one drink. His stomach had been so knotted up when he’d left the doctor’s office that he hadn’t even tried to get lunch. In fact, he’d thought he could never eat or drink again. But he took another drink now. It felt really good going down. And, come to think of it, one of those frozen dinners he’d stocked up on yesterday sounded downright appetizing.

He kicked off his shoes, ambled over to the computer desk, and sat down. Touching the mouse, he focused on the screen. There it was: the new baby – novel number thirty-one – bright and shiny and full of life – staring right back at him from the screen with the familiar challenge that compelled him to create another chapter and another and another. Every word was a part of him – his offspring. Yes, this was life to him. This was all he needed.

Other thoughts tried to intrude, but he kept pushing them aside. Finally, at one point, he got up and walked to the wall on which he kept his main calendar. He stared at it. Dr. Samuels had said, “Six months at the outside. Maybe not that long. I’m indescribably sorry, Joe.”

Joseph reached up and ripped the calendar off the wall. He tore it in half and tossed in into the waste basket as he spoke out loud in response to the words of the medical report: “What is time, anyway, Doc? It’s all relative, isn’t it? Why, I’ve given hundreds of characters entire lifetimes in less than six months.”

He walked back to the computer and placed his hands on the keyboard again. “Sorry, Doc … I’ve got too many lives depending on me right here in this keyboard. I just don’t have time to die.”



Just Do It


These delightful daffodils — golden bells of sunshine — exploded in my back yard a day ago. They always come — regardless of what the weather man says. A friend told me today that she heard a winter-weather advisory for this area, and I responded that almost every year, as soon as my daffodils come up, then the weather turns mean and nasty and tries to beat them to the ground. But these daffodils represent life, and life keeps producing life — even in the very face of death.

I got to thinking, after talking to my friend, that these daffodils, like everything else God created, have a job to do. They are to push their way up out of the ground and grow straight and tall to announce that spring has come and new life is available. They do their job perfectly, regardless of any possible consequences.

So I’m taking a lesson from these little flowers, and I’m sharing that lesson with you: Don’t worry about whether anything or anyone else is doing what he’s supposed to do. And don’t look all around to see if all circumstances are in your favor. Just be faithful over what you have been assigned. If you have a job to do —- DO IT!


A Tree Grows In Herrin, Illinois

I have a Blue Spruce tree. And I love my Blue Spruce tree very much. Though I am a far cry from the type of person you’d call a “nature worshiper,” I have to admit that I have this deep connection to my tree. For one thing, I have always thought the Blue Spruce was one of the most beautiful trees on the planet, and I used to think that it was unlikely I would ever have one in my own yard. But about 12 years ago, shortly after my husband and I moved into my current home, a cousin asked me if I’d like to have a Blue Spruce.

It seems that this little tree – not much more than a baby, at 5 feet tall – was having a very hard time of it in his yard because it was sitting in an old barrel, beneath several other trees, which were robbing it of sun and seriously stunting its growth. It was leaning to one side, trying to stay alive, but my cousin said it wouldn’t last if he didn’t get it out of the barrel and give it a home in deep soil, with plenty of sunshine and moisture.

I jumped at the chance to have my own Blue Spruce, and I believed that, through care and a lot of prayer (I always pray for my pets and my plants), I could get it back to a state of good health. I was especially encouraged to learn that when he went to pick up the barrel and transfer it to my yard, he could not get the barrel to budge. Upon further investigation, he found that this persistent Blue Spruce had forced its roots down between some very small cracks in the bottom of the barrel and rooted itself in the solid ground, determined to live and grow.

So we planted it in the middle of my front yard, drove a metal stake into the yard against its trunk, and fastened it to that stake so that it would help it to grow straight again. It was barely 5 feet tall, and two people could reach around its circumference and touch hands. 12 years and much prayer later (due to drought, bagworms, and a couple big dogs who kept mistaking it for their bathroom), it is thriving. Standing straight and strong, it now reaches almost 20 feet into the air and would require about 7 people to encircle it if they wanted to touch hands. I used to decorate it every year at Christmas, but now it would take a truck with a bucket ladder to do the job.

I guess you could say that I have a love affair with this tree. And every spring, I get excited just thinking about how it will again put out thousands of little pods on the end of each branch and push from those pods the most delightful bright green fluffs which will become the new leaves for that year. I look forward to the experience every year, and each year I am thrilled all over again as I watch the brand new life spring forth and totally renew this giant friend. Part of that thrill, of course, is not just because my tree is growing. But that bursting forth of new life from my tree represents all the new life that God gives us each year in nature – and the new life He offers each of us through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

This year, I got the bright idea that I would take pictures and record each step in the process of this renewal of life in my Spruce tree. And since WordPress so conveniently offers a slide show apparatus on our blogs, I have put those pictures into a slide show in order to share the beauty and the thrill with everyone who visits here. Enjoy.


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