Thursday, April 29, 2010

First Chapter of my Children's Book

I've written a children's chapter book, which means it's geared toward 8-10 year olds and is around 12,000 words. Today I'm posting the first chapter just for makes kind of a longer post than usual, so I don't know how many of you will be patient enough to read its approximately 1300 words, but if you have time, thanks! 


Chapter One
On the Other Side

Mother told me never to cross the creek behind our house. She said, “Josephine Marie Jenkins, if I ever catch you crossing Rosie Bush Creek…” Well you know the rest. I didn’t disobey on purpose, but it wasn’t always easy to follow the rules.

One day my best friend Mags and I planned to meet at the stone bridge, that crossed our imaginary moat, to write in our diaries and plan out our summer.

As soon as I’d finished helping Ma with the breakfast dishes, I’d put on my favorite striped shorts and pink blouse, brushed the tangles out of my snarly dull brown hair, grabbed my diary and fountain pen, and headed for the creek.

We’d named our favorite meeting place along the creek bank, Flat Rock, after the great smooth rock we used for a bench and a desk. I got there first, sprawled out on the rock’s sun-warmed surface, and had just written down Monday, June 13, 1955 in my diary, when I heard a door slam, and saw Maggie heading toward me. We were both ten, and about the same height, but she was fashionably thin. I’d always felt fat and clumsy around her even though Ma said she was too skinny and that I was just right.

I noticed she didn’t have her diary with her. “Hey, I thought we were going to write in our diaries today.”

“Yeh, I guess we were, but I really don’t feel like it after all. Instead, let’s go over to that house across the creek and see if we can spy on the witch.”

Maggie had often talked about a witch, who supposedly lived in the large rocked house sitting smack dab in the middle of the field, on the other side of Rosie Bush Creek. I never knew for sure if she honestly believed that a witch lived there, or if it was just another one of her made-up stories.

“Let’s not go over there, and say that we did. Okay?” That was kind of a smart-aleck phrase we used a lot with each other, especially when we were annoyed.

“No, it’s not okay. I want to go over there and see what she looks like.”

“Maggie, you know I’m not allowed to cross the creek. Besides, can’t you see the NO TRESPASSING sign on that giant tree over there? It means we are supposed to stay off of that person’s private property. If a witch does live there, I don’t want to see her and I sure don’t want her to see us.”

“Oh come on Jo. Don’t be such a party pooper. It’ll be fun. We’ll just sneak up to the house, peek in the window, get a quick look at her, and then run away. No one will ever know we were there. It’s not any worse than calling people on the phone and hanging up on them.”

She knew I didn’t like to do that either.

Before I had a chance to say another word, she was off, galloping across the creek, like Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger, cutting a trail through the grassy field.

“Oh man, Maggie. I’m coming. Wait up.” I hid my diary, and my lavendar Esterbrook pen under Flat Rock, and took out after her.

Almost immediately, my legs broke out into welts from the field’s tall mustard weed slapping against them. All I could see ahead of me was Maggie’s curly red ponytail waving behind her like a flag and her white cotton blouse popping up and then back down like a shiny yoyo bouncing through the field.

Running behind her made me feel like an elephant trying to keep up with a cheetah. We ran right past the NO TRESPASSING sign posted on the ancient oak, and then were slowed by a barbed-wire fence with a BEWARE OF DOG sign hanging from it sideways. Oh great.

“Ple-e-ase Maggie, We can’t get through that barbed-wire fence and she probably has a humongous dog just waiting to have us for lunch.”

“Come over here.” she bossed. “See this loose piece of wire? We can crawl under it easily enough if we hold it up for each other.”

Like a dummy, I grabbed the rusted piece of barbed wire and held it up while she scooted under on her belly. When it was my turn, she held it up for me. I had a little harder time fitting under the wire, but I finally made it. Soon my arms were itching as much as my legs from crawling through the weeds.

As we edged closer to the mysterious ancient looking house, I could feel the hot wind breathing down my neck like a warning. Chill bumps ran all over me and my stomach was starting to hurt.

“We shouldn’t be trespassing on this lady’s property Maggie.” I said. “We’re going to get in trouble. In fact, isn’t that Ma I hear calling me for lunch?”

“I don’t hear anything. Hush up Jo, and stay low…”

We crouched down and crept around to the backside of the house like cat burglars. We peeked through several knotholes in the fence and bright splashes of color looked back at us. The garden was small with a lot of plants and flowers crowded together—some in pots and others in hanging baskets. A narrow gray stone path wove its way through the landscape like stitches on a quilt. All sorts of critters; squirrels, rabbits, a fox, and even some turtles sat amongst the flowers. They looked real, but they were still as stone. The tiny garden looked like a colorful poster of a fairyland frozen in time—.

“Wow!” we said together, and then a woman’s thin scratchy voice startled us back to reality, “Hello. Who’s over there?”

It’s her—Oh no. She sees us.

And then, Maggie popped up and answered in her sweetest voice.

“It’s me and Josephine Jenkins, M’am.”

Why did Maggie use MY name?

“And what are you and Josephine Jenkins doing here, may I ask?”

I cleared my voice and said, “We live just across the creek and were out exploring. We accidentally ended up right here by your yard is all, but we’re really sorry.”

“You’re SORRY, are you? Come over here closer where I can see you and hear you better.”

Isn’t that exactly what the witch in Hansel and Gretel said?

For the first time ever, I saw purple fear cross Maggie’s freckled face. We both turned and ran as fast as we could. This time I kept right up with the cheetah, past the leaning BEWARE OF DOG sign, back through the gap in the barbed-wire fence, and past the NO TRESPASSING sign. In no time, the woman with the scratchy voice, the magical garden, the fence and the grassy field were all behind us. We fell panting onto the damp creek bank.

“Do you know what we saw, Jo?” Maggie said, gasping for breath.

“A very colorful garden, but something about it gave me the creeps.”

“It was creepy all right. Don’t you know those flowers and animals used to be real? I knew it—I was right. That woman is a witch, and through some type of magic, has turned all of those live flowers and animals into stone.”

“Are you sure about that Maggie Claire McClain? If that’s true, shouldn’t she be arrested or something?”

“For sure.” Maggie said. Her normally pale complexion shone hot with excitement, but tears gathered in my eyes and started spilling over onto my blotchy cheeks.

“What are you being such a baby about, Jo?”

“I’m sad for the animals. I wish I’d never seen them and now I can’t tell Ma about it because I wasn’t supposed to be over on that side of the creek to begin with. Stupid Maggie. You and your big ideas.”

I headed for home leaving my best friend with a surprised look on her face. I’d never talked to her like that, but she deserved it. It was her fault I’d disobeyed. Now I’d have to keep this secret from my mother, or she’d know I’d gone out of bounds. I wouldn’t be able to ask her about the witch, the stone flowers or the poor little petrified animals.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Best Post Ever.....

Meet Tamara Lowe and hear some relevant rap

Now that's POETRY

Friday, April 23, 2010

What is a poem not?

I like to read and write poetry, but I know a LOT of people that just throw up their hands at the very word---POEM. At our writer's workshop this week, we talked about poetry, what it is and what it's not which must have inspired me enough to write the following poem. I hope it'll help some of you, who find poetry nauseating, to see that it can be fun! 

by me

A poem is not a how-to manual
A poem is not an artificial stance
nor a convoluted puzzle to decipher

A poem is not a rhyme
although it might like to rhyme
A poem is not a recipe guaranteed to delight

A poem is not fraught with ulterior motives
A poem is not mysteriously profound
And those are some things poems are NOT

A poem IS a collage of words
bumped up against one another
some simple words--some absurd

Most words are ones most have heard
A poem is made like a child's bouquet
of random thoughts one's observed

A poem is just what a poem IS
Oh my gosh--this might be one!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quiltmaker...wish I'd written this

Poem by Luci Shaw:


"I make them warm to keep my family from freezing;
I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking."
--From the journal of a prairie woman, 1870

"To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that holds together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.

She pieces each one beautiful, and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbable leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings."

Quoted from Moving Into Light, Poems by Luci Shaw

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Truth shall make you free..."

Are these guys free or what?

“Truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

In Writer's Road Workshop last night, J.J. talked about how “as women” we are so prone to having to justify everything we do for ourselves. We will do for others without making excuses—it’s the norm, but if we do for ourselves, we have to justify our reasons, or name ourselves selfish.

An example. E said she likes to sleep in on a Saturday morning, but feels guilty if she does. I said, “It’s okay. Your body probably needs the sleep.” J.J. pounced on that statement (thank you J.J.) by explaining we don’t have to justify a simple sleep-in by saying our body needed it. What if we just slept in because it’s pleasurable. Now there's a unique thought. Why not revel in the luxury? Be grateful to God for the opportunity?

I thought again about all the negative self-talk I exercise. Why do I do that? One of many reasons is because it’s a cop out—gets me off the hook for not measuring up to my own unrealistic standard, or to someone else’s expectations.

It may be absolutely true, that on occasion, my writing is not as good as a fellow writer’s. Though that may be an honest evaluation, where does it take me? Do I berate myself for not being as clever as another, diminish my own ability and value, or do I let the other’s skillful work inspire me to keep at it, and assure myself if they can do it, then so can I? I'm learning the latter.

Thank the good Lord I am not like another and that no one is like me. I believe in the unique individual God has created me to be. I purpose to let go of every speck of self recrimination, and move toward the light God has given me for my journey. I won’t try to veer onto or share another person’s path.

This honesty, these truths leave the sin of negative self-talk writhing in the dust. My new story propels me out onto a new level of confidence, rest and joy. It sets me free to be the outrageous, the serious, the authentic self (and writer) I’m designed to be. It gives me power to choose freely.

My judge, my only Judge is my heavenly Father who has put His seal of approval on me because of Jesus, my Savior and Lord, Who long ago freed me from condemnation.

Yah God!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From the desert...

The variety of dead-looking, thorny configurations growing in our arid landscape (some which are so weird that we have to stop and marvel at their odd features), utterly amaze me. They present a threatening exterior--DON'T TOUCH ME, they announce, or I'll poke you good, and yet yearly they yield stunning blossoms. Do you know any people like that?

This magnificent creation, in our friend's yard,  is still not quite finished blooming. This one stops traffic.

Look at this thorny little critter.  It stands only about two feet tall and it's multiple flowers were as much as eight inches in diameter. This guy's been working overtime!

Here's a species of prickly pear cactus about ready to present us with a grand show of magenta blossoms.

And then, we see God's humor in plants like the ones below. These blooming stalks stand about 12-15' tall and are made up of tiny yellow flowers...not sure this close-up does the flowers justice. They are a rich shade of golden yellow. 

I've been showing you the native desert plants, but I'm also amazed at how well some of our imports adapt to our desert soil and rock yards. These are a few we enjoy in our backyard. These magenta beauties surprised us when they bloomed out of a small patch of ice plant we recently planted. Can't wait to see them next year. Can you see their smiles?

This is another favorite of mine that thrives in this landscape both winter and summer. It's a type of Hibiscus (thanks Diane)...another shade of  purple. I like purple. We have two large bushes covered with these flowers. I thought I took a photo of the bushes, but guess not. You'll have to trust me...they are covered...

Bird of Paradise are happy here also and present in different colors. We have a yellow one in our yard, but I can't put every plant in the frustrating!

I hope this sneak preview whets your appetite to consider a little wander out our way to enjoy the sunshine and interesting desert landscape. In May, the grand Saguaro cacti will put out their golden crown of flowers, not to speak of the poppies painting our hillsides along with desert sage plants' colors and bright pink bougainvillea lining our freeways.

I continue to revel in God's blessings in the midst of our corrupt and wayward world. I marvel that He can take dried-up thorny bushes (and people), and produce such richness and beauty in spite of their inherent deficits and hostile environments. Glory to our Creator God!  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Guess who this is?

You know, photos are the BEST aren't they?  To freeze a moment in wonder what is going through the mind of the photographed at the moment the shutter recorded the expression?  I found a few more photos I decided to share with you of...guess who?  See any resemblance to the rest of the family here?  I'm guessing a year old here, but not sure exactly...never mind what year that would be.
Here she is again...a few years older. Love that new tooth coming in. Wearing pearls? Don't remember that! The dress was red and white and I know she liked it.
This is my personal favorite. I do wonder what's going on in the head of this child. I think she had the flu this day but went to school anyway. Not her usual sparkling self. Dress was in pastels. Yes, girls wore dresses to school.
Recognize her yet?  Don't know what happened to third grade. There's a ponytail back there somewhere.

Oops....a few years have gone by here.  This is her engagement photo taken in 1965. Note the carefully teased hairdo...stiff as a board I can tell you!
Okay, here she is today...hmmmmmm....She loves being "blond".Still smilin' y'all and blessed!

I really enjoyed doing this blog. (smiles)  It's ALL about ME today!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Babies!

April 8, 1973 our first baby daughter was born around 10:30 on a Sunday morning. We named her Anna Jaylene (Anna means "gracious one") and Jaylene is a girl form of her daddy's name. Here she is at about 4 months old. Is that the sweetest little face ever?
Then ten years later to the day, God blessed Jay, me, Vance, and Anna with a second baby girl.  The four of us named her Lindsay Kay.  (Kay after Jay's sister) Another sweet face. Can you see the fire in those eyes?

What a beautiful family God has blessed us with. Here we are in the 80's just before Vance married Katie and four of us were about to move to Australia.

Back to the girls...motorcycle mama's on a camping trip in Mojave desert.

What have we here?  All ready for Easter Sunday church, Casa Grande, AZ.
This is just TOO CUTE! Wha happened to your two front teeth Lindsay? 

Perms were in---what can we say! First time in front of a computer at Vance's house in the early 90's.

Graduation came too quickly for mom and dad...Anna, 1991

Lindsay Graduation, 2001

Our beautiful, inside and out, girls.  It's all about you two today.  Dad and I are so proud of the women you've become, the wives, moms with babies of your own now. We love you so much and thank God for allowing us to be your parents.  God bless you and yours real good!
Love, Mom and Dad

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Good Friday" Meditation

I copied this poem from John Stumbo's blog--couldn't resist posting it here. John is a Christian Missionary Alliance pastor in Salem, OR. whose blog address is on my list. He has suffered extremely the last couple of years with some unidentifiable, debilitating disease. He has made some progress back, but is still needing further healing. I'm assuming John wrote this poem, it as he didn't give credit to another. If I find out different, I'll let you know. I pray it will bless you wherever you are today.

The Friday We Call "Good"
When we wish someone a "good day," we don't wish for their death.
How then dare we call this Friday, "good"?
If we had lived in Jerusalem that Friday, we would have only called this a good day
if we had been Christ's enemies.
The protectors of the status quo, the fickle mob, the demonic forces and Satan himself,
they thought it a very good day indeed.
But those who followed Him, those who loved Him, those who knew who He really was,
thought it the worst day of history.

Good Friday is good only if God Himself is truly good.

After all, what is good about betrayal, mockery, abuse, beatings, torment and blood-thirsty violence?
All of these were suffered by Jesus.
What good do we possibly see as evil is victorious, injustice rules and hatred overpowers love?
What good do we find in death?
Death is our enemy. Death is feared. Death is avoided at all costs. Death is a tragedy,
especially for someone so young.
How do we have the audacity to look upon something so tragic, so heinous and horrific
and declare it "good"?

Good Friday is good only if God Himself is truly good.

Everyone in our culture today wants to believe that if there is a God, He is good.
No one wants a "bad" God.
But the great weakness of our culture--Christian or not--is that we want to be the ones
who define "goodness."
Health, prosperity, long life, harmony with others and the world…these are all good.
Anything less is not.
We will define the term, we will act as judge, we will determine good and evil.
We shall be as God.

But Good Friday is only good, if the God of Good Friday is good.

Our reasoning continues: since we know what is good, we know that a good God would only give us
what we consider to be good.
Certainly if suffering or hardship enters our lives, it comes from the hand of another,
but never His.
But what if we're short-sighted? What if His definition of "good" looks to a farther horizon than ours?
What if we're blind?
Could it be that God is indeed very good--that He, in fact, is the definition of goodness--
but He is utterly different than we expect?

Good Friday is indeed good because the God of Good Friday is good.

On that day when the sky became a shroud, the earth trembled and the righteous wept,
God knew what we could not:
Suffering was necessary, bloodshed mandatory, evil temporary
and death the entry to life.
The Definition and Definer of Good revealed that His power is so great, his authority so complete,
that even the cruelest of this world is redeemable.
The worst day of all of human history became good because God is good...
good beyond our imagination.

May His goodness bring new hope to your suffering today.