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How to Live with a Writer – 5 Tips Guaranteed to Make Life Easier

How to Live with a Writer

First I apologize for stalling on the blog. I miss my readers. I hope you’ve missed the stories as well. When the end of our book waved encouragement, it was like sending a marble down the track, racing through the obstacles to the finish. Trust me, had I stopped to write a blog, it would have been a wordy resentment as to how I had to take time away from finishing the book. In the meantime, my dearest husband suggested (after much whining) that he write a blog for me. With that said:  I introduce a very special guest blogger – husband, Sandy Palmer. Obviously, I did not choose the topic. How to Live with a Writer

As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Still do, whether magazines, (read cover to cover), a daily newspaper, or at least one book. But writing? I suck at it!  Any class I’ve taken involving writing, was painful, and book reports, unless given orally, received unremarkable grades. I’ve never been partial to one type of book; i.e. novel, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, etc. Likewise, I’ve never had a favorite author, at least not until twenty-five years ago, when I met Deb, my wife to be.  She was finishing her college degree in Print Journalism.  From the start, I enjoyed anything she wrote, as she had a way with words, capturing what was important, pertinent, what needed said. How to Live with a Writer

When we first met she was writing for the college newspaper; human interest feature articles. Post college, while working for a non-profit organization, she launched a newsletter, convincing the agency they needed a public relations officer. Soon after, we hung a shingle on our house, “Palmer Business Communications,” where she freelanced for other agencies, wrote a column for a local newspaper and cranked out resumes that pretty much guaranteed you an interview.  After several years of writing for other people, she burned out, gave up the writing and spent the next twenty years in the antique business. How to Live with a Writer

Her passion for writing, starting when she was a little girl, didn’t go away, it just took a break. Like a serial killer, destined to strike again, Deb’s desire to write returned with a vengeance. Writing consumed much of her time.  Not just the physical part of writing, but thinking about writing, planning about writing, editing writing, proof-reading writing, rewriting writing, publishing planning, marketing planning, and so forth and on and on. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  From early on, I have been involved with Deb’s writing.  Having done many things in my work career, I was useful in terminology and knowledge of skills needed, in numerous fields, when it came to resume’ writing.  Once, shortly after she had quit smoking, and was dangerous to be around when she was stressed, I finished the last paragraph of a newspaper column, when my physical well-being was at stake. How to Live with a Writer

In the past several years, since Deb came back to her writing, she has written two books and maintains a blog.  Both of the books are great, and I look forward to them being published.  The first one, a collection of short stories, based on the beatitudes, is very entertaining, laced with much humor and a big yellow dog.  By the time it was finished, Deb hated it, and it was put on the back burner.  One of the stories has been published in a Christian Anthology, called, “The Birds of Passage.”  The second book was recently finished in rough draft form, and Deb is again disliking it, saying that no one will want to read it. She’s nuts!  Three chapters from this book have been posted on her blog, with rave reviews.  I know that something big will come of Deb’s writing. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  Deb thinks I am.  I am not an editor. Deb thinks I am. I am not a proof reader. Deb thinks I am.  I know that her writing is exceptional, and will be read and enjoyed by many. If she can be convinced of this,our lives will, possibly, become calm. I doubt it! On to the next writing project!!!!   I am not a writer, but I will continue to be whatever Deb needs me to be, and mainly her #1 supporter.

If you, like me, live with a writer; my heartfelt condolences. I will offer some advice how to survive. Here are the 5 tips that I’ve learned the hard way. How to Live with a Writer

 

Tip One: Be Willing to Listen… NOW!

If said OCD writer approaches with a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word or even an idea related to writing, respond as if they are holding a ticking bomb. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is more important. It doesn’t matter if you’ve drank three cups of coffee and are sprinting to the bathroom finish line…. Stop! Listen! Wet clothing can be changed; words may expire or combust.

 

Tip Two: No Faking

Let’s say the writer is reading a section to you that you really don’t understand, or even like.. Whatever you do, don’t plaster a grin on and say “I like it,” or it’s nice. I’ve come to believe writers have a special type of Extra Sensory Perception when it comes to this. Be sincere, but tread lightly. Honesty is your only way out, but stand back a ways.

 

Tip Three: React to the Writing…

I know this sounds silly, but it is for the best. Trust me. Practice your facial responses in the mirror. You will most likely need to times your normal reaction by three. If your normal response is “uh huh,” or “yeah, I like it,” times it by ten. Listen for humor and laugh as if you’re a drunk needing to be heard over the entire bar. Besides humor, expand your responses to cover content, story line, word choice, etc.

 

 

Tip Four: Repeat Yourself and Repeat Yourself

OCD writers are either hard of hearing or attention deficit when it comes to their work.  Here is a typical conversation.

                Me: That is really powerful. It’s great.

OCD Writer: You like it?

Me: Yes

OCD Writer: Why do you like it?

Me: Because I think it is powerful?

And don’t be surprised or lose patience if later they ask:

                Did you really like it?

And

Do you think anyone else will like it?

 

Tip Five: Take away the Club

OCD writers beat themselves up. If you don’t stop them, they often believe they cannot continue. Exchange the self-abating Billy club with the real source of power – God. When all else fails, I ask one question:

Have you asked God’s help?

With a divine light bulb above her head, she calms, thanking me for tipping her face toward heaven.

Check out a sample chapter of our latest book:

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Granny Tennis Shoes… Sword Tongue… Praying Hands… What’s Your Legacy?

High top all star converse tennis shoes Praying Hands Legacy

Everyone knew her. That woman, older than dirt, bent like the crook of a cane to half her height. Back then, in the 60s, an old lady in trousers is today’s equivalent to a tube top and Daisy Dukes. Thus, all elderly women wore floral jersey dresses. But this lady, had it going on, donning the expected uniform dress, and thick, sagging, support stockings with her signature Converse All Stars high top tennis shoes. Praying Hands Legacy

The fashion statement earned the nickname, Granny Tennis Shoes, and a story, told as a warning, locally and beyond. The tale not only explains the physical ailment but also solves the fashion mystery.

It went something like this…Praying Hands Legacy

            One day a poor penniless widow found a pair of Converse All Stars in a dumpster. While lacing them up, the plan emerged, catapulting the old woman from rocking chair to entrepreneur, soon branded as Granny Tennis Shoes. During peak traffic times, taking a two-point stance at the street corner, she’d wait for the light to flash green, pouncing onto the crosswalk, (hence the tennis shoes) in front of a car, (hence the crippled body). Afterward, Granny drug her tired, tread riddled bones to court, suing the traumatized driver, for all they had.

And the saddest part of the story?

We all believed it.

It was not until I told the story as an adult that I realized how unlikely it would be that she would survive more than one attempt. Poor old Granny Tennis Shoes, clueless as to why… fingers pointed… cars swerved at the sight of her… wide-eyed children gawked or ran away. Praying Hands Legacy

Have you ever wondered what stories are told about you? I cringe at the thought. Labeled a feisty redhead with a nasty temper, my brother nicknamed me Sword Tongue saying,“Watch out, if you make her mad, she’ll slice you to pieces!” Praying Hands Legacy

That’s not a good legacy. I pray today my words be sweet, that the blade of my tongue is guarded, never wagging amok, or used as a weapon. I confess and repent of times my nearest and dearest have witnessed my tongue unsheathed. It’s true, I ’m not the person I could be, but it’s also true, I’m not the person I once was. The one who took pride in verbal slaughters. Glory to God for the changes and praise for His continued work. Praying Hands Legacy

I remember the first time I knew there’d been a paradigm shift in the way people define me. It was my birthday, the one when my now 18-year-old grandson was just four years old. With no help or suggestions from others, he selected my present. By the look of anticipation on his beaming face, I knew whatever it was, he believed it to be a grand and perfect gift. I expected a mug, or socks, maybe even a “NaNa is the best” placard. I did not, nor could not, have imagined the treasure concealed inside the box, wrapped slipshod in the funny papers. After peeling the last layer of comic, I opened the lid, lifting the mysterious cube from the box. Dazed, I stared at the gift, mirroring what my grandson sees when he looks at me. A battery operated crystal cube that lights up, revealing a silhouette of praying hands. The loveliest gift ever. Praying Hands Legacy

A drop to my knees, state of mind, moment. Hyper aware of the miraculous transformation, present in me, a task only God could pull off. How flattering… what an honor… to know my grandson pictures me as a woman of prayer who loves God. I’ve never felt more gratitude for God pulling me up out of the muck and mire, hosing me off, presenting me as lovely, in my grandson’s eyes. Praying Hands Legacy

Had I kept going the way of my past, my grandchildren might see me as someone chasing the wind, or worse, they might not know me at all. Because of our powerful awesome God, my five grandsons know what’s important to me. God, their Grandpa, and family.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That birthday was a defining moment for me. A day when I received a priceless jewel. Proof that God is working miracles every day, in every way, even if you are just a “me,” like me. Undeniable evidence that I am not the godless woman I once was. For me, the wondrous change is no less a marvel than if I’d sawn off my leg and God grew it back.

Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Thank You God that who I see reflected in the eyes of my loved ones, is good.

Hmm… maybe Granny Tennis Shoes’ grandchildren and those who actually knew her, saw her as a loving grandma, who happened to wear cool high top tennis shoes. I hope so.

 

See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Last Peek- New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

new author chapter preview

new author chapter preview

I’m the person that finds the perfect Christmas present in April, buys it, sticks it in the closet, waits several hours, then calls you to come open it now. new author chapter preview

That’s how I feel about our book, “In Spite of Us, Stalked by a Loving God.” How can I possibly wait until it’s finished, before I share it? Besides, your enthusiasm and encouragement for the other two sample chapters, helped spur me on.

So, here we go again. Since, I’m currently writing the final chapters, (Yay! Finally getting to spew God’s glory!), this will be the last peek of our book.

The book is written, in dueling perspectives, mine and husband Sandy. Chapter 39, (my voice) is about three quarters into the book. I’m sober, but just as crazy as not. When plans to score prescription drugs fail, I walk through the proverbial, “last door,” A.A. More interesting than following my zig-zagging path of desperation, is the look into what God is, was and continues to do.

Chapter 39

 

You keep saying that. Are you sure? New Author Chapter preview

When I said the words, I hoped for relief, a sense of closure to my insanity. Instead the words floated around the room with nowhere to rest.New Author Chapter preview

“My name’s Deb. I’m an alcoholic.”

As I tell my story, the voice in my head screams, “shut up!” I want to keep it simple, like Veni Vidi Vici, only instead of I came, I saw, I conquered… I drank, I quit, I’m fine now. The faces at the table look like our cat Slim, when I treat her like a dog. I confess to being sober, or dry, for the past eight years. All eyes glaze over under one giant group frown. Even my quest to score meds turned into a bizarre circus. Why did I get the self-absorbed, confused psychiatrist, instead of the normal, stable, old man, glasses on nose, saying stuff like, “It’s okay dear, everything will be fine.”  And why did my magic bean leave me the color of cherry Kool Aid, super charged like a Chatty Cathy doll on speed?  Once again, I’m left behind, waving bon voyage to all America as they pop a pill, floating off to chill island. New Author Chapter preview

So here I sit, in an A.A. meeting, attempting to explain the sober alcoholic clause. Do I care if I meet the base requirements to join their little club? Not really. I loathe the clichés, the constant self ass-patting for not doing something stupid yet today, and the guy whining about his ex-wife. Yet, I want what they have, well what a few seem to have found… a God they believe in… serenity… hope. There must be a way to get what they have, without hanging out with them. All I know is, I don’t know diddly, and I have nowhere else to go. New Author Chapter preview

I got a sponsor, nicknamed Little Sue, a friend from Alanon. She’s a cocktail like me, two fingers A.A. with an Alanon mixer, a splash of ACOA, and a little crazy, on a toothpick. If you’re not familiar with those terms I’ll simplify it for you, it’s the trifecta of the disease of alcoholism… A. A deals with the alcoholic… Alanon deals with all the others harmed by the alcoholic…. ACOA… is specifically for those who’ve lived under the chaos of alcoholic parents. Crazy is… a bonus, for winning the trifecta. New Author Chapter preview

The first time I meet with Little Sue, I’m certain she tries to scare me off. I don’t blame her, who wants to take on the difficult cases. I hope Difficult Deb is not my destined nickname. New Author Chapter preview

“We’re jumping ahead to Step 11 for a moment,” she says, sliding the Big Book my way, while reciting the step. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

She seems to be waiting for me to respond. I don’t hear a question in there, so I keep quiet.

“If I’m to be your sponsor, you’ll be looking into the Bible. If that’s not okay with you, we won’t be a good fit.”

I laugh. Lately I’ve felt like a cartoon character stalked by Bible thumpers, jumping out from every corner. Since we’ve opened our antiques store in Ellensburg, I’m at the mercy of my customers seven days a week. I’m trapped behind the counter, forced to listen to tales of their ceramic pig collection, annoying neighbors, upcoming gall bladder surgery, and God.

One day, a blonde trio approaches the counter; a young mom holding the hand of a toddler, dragging an antique doll across the floor. The porcelain doll appears to be the one from the glass case, with the $300 price tag, and sign reading: Please do not touch.

“I’m a Christian…” says the mom. “Would you take $25 for this doll. My little girl really wants it. We’re Christians and can’t afford to pay more than that.”

I did not say the words begging to spill out. I didn’t even say the G Rated version – “Listen, you presumptuous idiot. I don’t hold Christians in high regard or think by any means that you are better than anyone else.”

I really tried.

“I see she likes the doll, but there’s no way I can sell a $300 doll for $25.”

Pointing at her child, she continues.

“But, we can only pay $25. Wouldn’t you consider it, because we are Christians?”

I remind myself to be kind.

“I’m sorry…” I begin, but hearing the lie, unleashes my indignation.

“You know what, dear heart? If I could adjust my prices that easily I’d charge Christians double. Why? Because they think they’re entitled and better than everybody else. So, have a wonderful day, and God bless you!”

I fight the urge to chase her down the sidewalk with, “further mores.” Instead, red faced, I pick the doll up off the floor, finger comb the mussed hair, and return it to the shelf, next to the “Please do not touch,” sign.

Back at the counter, another woman approaches me. Her hands are empty, so I assume she’s overheard the drama, and wants to take a shot at me. I feel like I’ve just slapped the face of Tiny Tim (“God bless us, every one”). Only in my version, I snag a doll from the weak hands of a deprived little girl, a Christian child.

“I’m a Christian too…” she starts.

I’m wondering what’s going on. The Christians are circling, like the lions in that bible story. I’m bleeding, and they’re moving in for the kill. Before I spring with a defense, she finishes her sentence.

“… and I want you to know that we are not all like that woman. I’m so sorry she did that. It was very un-Christian like.”

I like this woman, with the kind face. Since that drama, she, Patryk, stops by daily. It seems our store is on her walk route. She listens, even when I spit vile opinions of Christians. Best of all, she’s not perfect. Sure, imperfection is common, but she’s actually aware of the ailment. I’ve never met a Christian like her. I worked with a Christian guy at People for People, who had puffy, sprayed-stiff, Televangelist hair. He had plenty of time to dampen spirits with news of the fast approaching end times, but if you were choking on a chicken bone, drowning, or in need of a kind word, he’d hurry on by.

“Christians are either crazy or jerks… you know I’m right, Patryk.”

“Well, Deb, I’m a Christian… “

“You keep saying that. Are you sure?”

Around the same time, yet another oddball Christian surfaces at the store, named Monte. We became fast friends, our bond, being a distinct distaste for Christians. He has more rotten things to say about them than me. Yet, he speaks of Jesus like someone I might actually like. I got to know Monte when one of my customers, (probably a Christian), told me I should keep an eye on him, because he looked like the type that would steal. Although we’d never spoken more than a few sentences of polite customer/clerk exchange, I knew this humble, quiet man, was no thief or threat. She, like many others, judged his blonde hair, traipsing down his back, open shirt, and bull ring in one ear. One conversation with him would reveal the gentlest soul on earth. So I lied to the presumptuous, finger pointing woman, in a voice loud enough for Monte to hear.

“Excuse me? That man is my dearest friend. And the most honest person I know!”

She slithered out the door, justifying her accusations with, “I didn’t know… I was just trying to help…”

Monte, approached the counter.

“I apologize for her.”

“It’s okay, I’m used to it. It happens all the time.”

Thus, our friendship began. We hang out, sipping tea, between customers, bashing Christians and discussing Jesus. Soon after Monte became a store fixture, my next door business neighbor, Anne, pays me a visit. The sign above her store reads: Ed’s Refrigeration Service, but it is loosely dubbed an antiques store, known for dust covered clutter.

“He’s evil,” she says, racing into my store, just as Monte left out back. “That man, with that hair… and no shirt. I know things about him.”

I try to shine light on her darkness, but she isn’t having any of that. I never told Monte about her visit, but we shared many laughs at her expense. Besides dust, she is known around town for her, “end of times” sales techniques. Her favorite: Placing fake $20 bills on the floor, lurking behind a pile of junk until a customer picks it up, then jumping out yelling “Aha!” After giving a lecture on the evils of money, she smiles, handing them a dooms day preparation brochure. Truth is, she’s great for our business, sending shaken victims through our door, seeking protection and an explanation.

Looking back, I should not have been surprised that my A.A. sponsor was in on the helter skelter Christian encounters. I thought I’d be fed the same lingo I’d heard around the tables. No one there speaks of Bibles or Jesus. So, my coffee date with Little Sue, caught me off guard and even more alarming was my response to her order to read the Bible

“Okay, I can do that. Makes sense.”

Funny thing, I have two new Bibles, one from Patryk and another from Monte. Sadly, it’s like reading a foreign language, yada, beget, yada, yada, beget, yada, thou shall yada yada. I found one part, I understood, but I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was that creep Lot, who wants to protect his sons, so he says “Hey take my daughters and do whatever you want with them.”

What? I hate that guy. I am so upset; I call Little Sue moments after reading it. She listens to my paraphrase of the story, cutting me off mid-rant.

“Okay… I don’t think you’re ready to read the Old Testament alone. You’re not really comprehending the context. Please stay in the New Testament for now”

“Is that Lot guy in the New Testament?”

“No.  How are you doing with the Big Book? Are you journaling on your fourth step? “That’s the one that says ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.; Right? Well, I’ve been thinking on it. I haven’t written anything down yet.”

“Next week I want you ready to share your inventory with me. Okay?”

“Okay.”

 

If you haven’t read the other sample chapters, you can find them here: new author chapter preview

Sample Chapter 14

Sample Chapter 19

YAY! WE WON A LIEBSTER BLOG AWARD

liebster award I was hungry… my mind tricked me into reading “Lobster” in place of “Liebster.” I didn’t care if we’d been nominated for a fishy award, I was happy to reel it in. The point is, someone (not a relative or coerced friend) likes the blog. A closer look into the award revealed that the German word Liebster means “dearest or beloved.” Cool, huh? Much better than a crustacean award. LiebsterPost

            Blogging takes time, patience, a steady flow of affirmations from readers, and for me, a willing husband who never tires of saying, “no, it doesn’t suck.” So, yes, yes, yes, I accept the nomination and without further adieu extend a huge thank you to Erin @ http://onehundredtwentythreedays.com/ for the recognition. Check out her blog, I found it to be fresh, intriguing and I gleefully accept her challenge to live a better life.

The idea behind the Liebster Award is to discover and give a nod to new bloggers. Accepting, means you win (yay! I won). There’s no trophy, paid vacation or a truck load of cash (dang), but you do get the honor of displaying the cool Liebster Award logo while taking a stroll down the cyber red carpet.

In lieu of an acceptance speech, winners are asked to follow a few instructions.

Answer the following 11 questions provided by the nominator.

Share 11 random facts about themselves.

Post the Liebster Award rules

Nominate 11 others for the award.

 

Q&A From My Nominator (nominees, please answer these same 11 questions)

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 29, and find line 4. What is the book and what does it say?

“Notre Dame,” by Victor Hugo… “Oh yes; I remember it!” exclaimed Gisquette: “God on the cross, and the two thieves on each side of Him.”

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?  

I’m weird about this. It’s much more about who I live near than where. I would choose a place with few if any snakes, close to my family and friends.

3. If you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?

I would replace all hate with love.

4. Is the glass half empty or half full?

A trick question for a sober person… what’s the liquid?

5. When is the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?

Two years ago from my own little garden. Confession: It did not taste like the ones I remember as a child; dripping down my arm with the first bite.

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be Mark Twain… of course!

7. What is your favorite time of the day?

First light… sitting with hubby in the quiet as we slowly enter the day.

8. What inspires you?

Faith… without which I am done for.

9. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Sitting with my mother, flipping through the Sears Roebuck Catalog, selecting everything we would buy if money was no concern.

10. What three things in nature do you find most beautiful?

Tigers, flowers, and the way light plays on the trees.

 11. Who are your Nominees?

Here are 11 random facts about myself.

  1. At the time of this writing, I was the ONLY person in Washington State who wasn’t watching the Seahawks at the Super Bowl.
  2. Sometimes I just can’t help exaggerating (see #1 above).
  3. I wonder about cows. According to my hubby, too much. Stuff like… why are they all standing up? Why is that cow being snubbed by the others? Did she do something anti-social? Is there a hierarchy among cows in the field? Is the cow on the mound pretending to be king of the hill? You know, that stuff… I assume everyone ponders.
  4. I write to music, sometimes evoking a moment of dance followed by a get back to work slap upside the head.
  5. I wear my husband’s T-shirt to bed, the one he’s been wearing for the day. No other will do. It gives me the same comfort my thumb sucking blanket gave me when I was a toddler (this should count as two random facts).
  6. If my toenails are not painted, I feel like they are naked.
  7. I HATE wearing socks.
  8. I play a game by Battlenet called Hearthstone more than I should.
  9. I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my life including driving a bulldozer and a forklift. Side note: Crashing a forklift through a plate glass window gets a lot of attention.
  10. I can be won over by any dog. A couple of wags, a sloppy wet kiss… game over.
  11. I think Godly men like my husband are super sexy. Watching him pray has an even stronger effect on me than number 10.

Looking forward to all my nominee’s answers.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

 

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

RatedWforWeird

The following is an excerpt from our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” The story is about an unremarkable couple pursued by God at every turn. It’s written in two points of view – his and hers – bi-chapterly. Here’s a few things you need to know to set the stage: New Author  Chapter Preview

It takes place several months after their shaky blind date in that nearly comfortable stage.   They’re forty-somethings who’ve just graduated college, about to start lives meant for twenty somethings. They stand on the relationship hearth, laden with old baggage.

She is not interested in God… any God. To her, sobriety has no benefits. It’s rather like slaughtering a Led Zeppelin tune to make it playable in elevators. She’s been hurt, and if some guy thinks it’s going to happen again… well, he better be ready because this time guns are loaded. The question is this: Is she attracted to the soft-hearted, God-loving recovering alcoholic bent on becoming a better man, or the selfish, egotistical, biker bad-boy he used to be? New Author  Chapter Preview

He is three years sober and not going back to the party. He loves God… a God of his own design, picking what he likes and dislikes like a child forking through a salad. He sees the red flags she slaps him upside the head with, but hey, she’s not a convict, an improvement over past relationships. The question is this: Is he attracted to the kind, loving, woman underneath her facade, or the mouthy, arrogant bad-girl he sees as a challenge? New Author  Chapter Preview

The big question is this: New Author  Chapter Preview

Have they exasperated all patience or can God clean up their messy lives?

Oh… did I mention my husband and I are the couple, and this is our true story of God’s perpetual grace?

The sample chapter below is written in Sandy’s (my husband) point of view. It’s one of the more light-hearted chapters, when he meets my colorful parents.  It begins amid the current family drama, the murder of my mother’s cousin, Virginia.

Read the warning and take the risk if you dare. We hope the taste of our story leaves you wanting more.

RatedWforWeird

Chapter 14

Bet he’s never seen anything like it.

            After tedious hours of prep and quizzing by professor Deb, I’m ready to meet the parents. The door opens, I’m drawn into the land of the McFarland’s, a place I believed existed mostly in Deb’s exaggerated imagination. Dema greets us at the door with a hearty, genuine hug. I’m confused because she’s dressed like we’re going to a black tie event and my only instructions were to wear a real shirt with no funny saying on it. She’s all sparkly, with sequins and jewels, the infamous auburn hair and makeup done to perfection. I feel better seeing Mac stretched out on his recliner, dressed like a 1950’s cowpoke.

The 12 by 12 foot living room is furnished for a room three times its size, so you have to cross the room walking sideways. Greetings barely obliged, Dema presses start on a VHS tape she’s had paused and ready for us since we left Yakima. The 60-inch projection television can only be seen from the two recliners placed directly in front, where Mac and Dema sit, both armed with a stack of remotes. Deb and I sit on the orange velvet love seat, our knees sideways so we don’t knock over the glass table in front.

For the next hour we watch news clips recorded from all three major television networks. Deb warned me this might happen, to which my reply was, “No, they wouldn’t do that.” After this, I will not question Deb’s facts. The newscasts escalate from a missing person to murder, while Mac and Dema insert background information, sometimes pausing to make sure we are keeping up.

            Hindered by the sideways view and the interruptions, this is my best translation of the drama: Virginia is Dema’s cousin. No one agrees whether she was on husband six, seven or eight. She has a son named Lynn, a sailor who visited once and made homemade pizza from a box. Virginia had lots of money because of her husbands, that she spent on diamonds and high heels. Dema says Virginia was spoiled as a child. She should know since they took baths together. Virginia was missing four days, with her car mysteriously parked in the driveway. Husband number six, seven or eight, claimed she vanished. Lynn, the pizza making son, flew to Spokane, hoping to help find his mother. Suspicions grew. The police brought search dogs, finding poor Virginia buried in the garden along with the carrots and potatoes. The last news clip shows the husband in handcuffs being carted off in a police car.  An autopsy revealed she had been shot. Everyone is relieved that Aunt Myrt, Virginia’s mom, is not around to see this.

            I’m exhausted and we’ve just begun. Again, Deb was right, insisting my intro to the McFarland’s be brief, without Haley and Jay, who might blab something we don’t want known.

 “I don’t want them to know we’re living together,” said Deb. “If we stay overnight we have two choices – separate rooms, pretending what we all know not to be true – or same room knowing the rest of the family is pow-wowing outside the door, chanting tsk – tsk – tsk.”

Considering our options, a short day trip seemed best. When murder and mayhem conversation dies off we move to the next dramatic scene.

            “Have you shown Sandy the bar?” Mac asks, knowing we’ve not left the front room.  “Bet he’s never seen anything like it.”

            “You haven’t… come on,” Deb says, motioning for me to follow. She side-winds through her childhood habitat, like a snake crossing the desert, while I, new to the obstacle course, bump knees and elbows, unskilled at walking sideways. Mac and Dema follow. She carries a 16-ounce tumbler of scotch and water, room to room, like a portable oxygen tank. The story from Deb is that her mom confesses to the doctor a two drink habit, omitting the constant refreshing and topping off.

            I’ve spent time in bars, all types… redneck, biker, highbrow… dives to swanky black tie joints… home bars, makeshift bars, tailgate specials. Yet none prepared me for the, “McFarland’s Bar.”

Deb’s eyes are begging me for words, but I don’t know what to say.  When words fail me, she involuntarily covers for me, chattering nervously, cooing and fidgeting like a cross between a dove and a quail.

“We had the bar built. It’s regulation. So are the dozen stools,” Mac says.

There’s a mirrored back bar with shelves stocked and ready to fill any drink order. And… Elvis is in the room… rows of gold and silver Elvis bottles peering down from shelves installed around the ceiling. There’s a black light, 20 beer signs, a booth style table and a life size poster of Mac dressed as a woman… an extremely ugly toothless woman with a huge nose… just imagine if Popeye had a sister.  What comment am I to make? Deb is trying to cover for my silence.

“Did you see the disco ball? Cool, huh? Did you know the poster is Dad? The ceiling is painted black for the strobe lights. You should really see what it looks like at night…”

Any moment Deb’s going to shove me on her lap, cram her arm up my butt and move my jaw up and down, like Edgar Bergan and his Charlie McCarthy doll. I open my own mouth to comment, but not fast enough to delay what’s coming next.

Deb’s classy, attractive, soft spoken mom calls me over to the bar. She’s lined up a collection of ceramic figurines. I obey her call, nearing the harmless looking monks and frogs. Then she hands me a monk.

“Turn it around,” she says. “Isn’t that awful?”

As I turn the monk around, he transforms into a ceramic penis. Why is this happening? Dema keeps saying how awful it is… I want to agree. Then she hands me a frog, asking me to turn it over. Do I have to? Deb gives me a “just do it” look.

“Isn’t that awful?” Dema asks again.

I manage a laugh at the anatomically enhanced frog. It’s not that I can’t handle the joke. I feel like I’ve been captured and thrown into someone’s really bad X-rated home movie. Finally, I speak.

            “Deb, where’s the bathroom?”

            The conversation turns from ceramic phallic symbols to towels as I follow Deb’s finger pointing down the hall.

             “I copied your idea to roll towels on the shelves. I really like it.” I hear Dema say to Deb.

            I try to open the door to the bathroom, but something is behind it. I slide through sideways, finding a huge hook on the back of the door holding a stack of robes. The door’s heavy and hard to close on the carpet, but I manage. Standing at the toilet staring at a tall shelf above it, I count 56 hand towels, 49 bath towels and 62 wash cloths, neatly rolled and stacked like cord wood stored for the winter. If a bus load of people needing a bath arrive at the McFarland’s, they’re covered for towels.

            “There are 56 hand towels,” I say to Deb as I squeeze back through the door. She shushes me while peeking in.

“Oh, that looks great Mom. Rolling the towels saves a lot of space.”

            Dinner, however late, is worth it. I’d been told to expect greatness and my hopes were not denied. The table was set with U.S. Navy flatware and individual platters, not plates, crowded with heaping plates of southern fried chicken, mash potatoes, country gravy, biscuits and corn. Seated in unspoken assigned seats, with Mac at the head of the table, I remember one of Deb’s warnings – “Whatever you do, don’t pass the food in the wrong direction, it drives Dad crazy.”

            He passes the procession of steaming bowls ceremoniously clockwise. I try, but curiosity wins, forcing my hand to pass the corn upstream, against the current.  Dema accepts the bowl with a nervous grin… Deb and Mac place their forks on the table, staring me down as if I’m the one who buried Virginia under the carrots. Not wanting to delay indulging in this feast any longer, I retrieve the corn, sending it clockwise. I know what we’ll be discussing on the ride home to Yakima.


 

 

Would You Trust Your BETA Readers to Pack Your Parachute?

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This week I selected my BETA readers, delivering the first chapter of our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” It feels like I ripped my heart out, placed it on a platter and gave it to a team of television soap opera surgeons. Now, I wait trusting them to keep it beating.

          Selecting my readers was tough. They’re friends I trust to pack my parachute, defend my honor and point out food stuck between teeth. But I just handed them my writing, as nonchalant as a basket of baked goods. What if it’s one of those bad fruit cakes we pretend to like but secretly wonder why someone bothered to bake it?

After reading volumes on choosing BETA readers, I gleaned and personalized three essentials.

  1. They must know me well enough to tell the truth, dodge the verbal rock tossing and believe me when I tell them I want honesty. They cannot be wimps, easily intimated by short bouts of crying, cursing or whining.
  2. They cannot be Teacher Wannabes. You know the ones like those kids you played school with? The bossy Hitler types insisting they be the teacher. This reader would demand a flogging for using a dangling participle because they like saying the word “participle.” And kind words or encouragement would be nonplussed.
  3. They must be people whose yes means yes and no means no. People willing to commit with no hope of a reward beyond a sincere thank you and a hug.

After an excruciating process sparring between trust and distrust, I came up with four + one BETA readers. Here’s the rundown of who made the list and why:

Ray Wockner:ray

A salty, “tell it like it is” guy with a big heart. A great choice. Ray’s one of those remarkable people with experience on both sides of the fence. He’s suffered, made stupid choices, fought losing battles. When friends had nearly given up on him, he flipped over in his self-dug grave surprising us all, resurrecting new-found humility and strength along with the uncanny ability to keep on loving people… even though. He’s a long term friend of both my husband and myself. Most importantly, Ray knows… who we used to be… how different we are today… and WHO helped us.

 

Jackie Archibald:jackie

 

A lovely woman of great faith. The most determined woman I know. I’ve watched this lady persevere through unimaginable circumstances. Jackie’s that special type of friend who won’t let you give up. She cares. She prays. She asks the tough questions. Jackie feeds me hope, reminding me that God is behind my work, pushing me forward.

Ande Hising:

ande

Analytical, intellectual, thorough… a woman who won’t settle for mediocrity, not for herself… not for others. My history with Ande is intense. We don’t always agree, but after a volatile reaction (mine) we find ourselves standing side by side on an island of mutual respect. She is a hard choice for me because… well… she won’t make it easy. That’s good and bad. She passionately believes God’s blessed me with a gift to write. How awesome is that? The problem is Ande’s passion means there’s work to be done. She’ll show up at my door with 75 books I need to read, a list of 700 people I should contact and before she leaves give me some personal advice. I’m fortunate to have her on this list. She’s an avid reader, hyper-intelligent and a good friend.

Evan Garfein:evan

A solid, stable, bright and Godly young man. Our 16-year-old grandson. I’ve asked this special young man for his input for extremely personal reasons. Our book is not of interest to teens. It’s not an adventurous, action-packed tale of senior citizen zombies. It’s the truth about his grandparents… no polish, nothing omitted. All the stuff we’d rather he didn’t know… but knowing it proves God’s grace and power. We need Evan’s wise heart to witness the miraculous restoration God performed on his not so admirable grandparents.

Natalie Phillips: (the plus one)

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I refer to Natalie as “plus one” because she’s more than a BETA reader. This delightful, fun-loving, super resourceful friend plopped into my life “ka-plunk” like an angel from heaven. God’s timing is perfect along with his choice of helper. Who else would selflessly give of her skills to edit for an unknown struggling confidence lacking writer? Who does that kind of stuff? Her friendship is invaluable. Together we’re learning how to trust, be vulnerable, share our love for God, respect differing doctrines, and most importantly, let our hair down and have fun. She’s much more than my comma Nazi. She’s a sweet spirited, Catholic raised woman, reading about our messy past tales, celebrating God’s power to change hearts. Her opinion holds a place of honor.

That’s the lineup. My BETA readers for my first book. My pit crew… my friends.

Are Your Expectations Dimming God’s Power?

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Every day he’d march through the historic windy town of Ellensburg, turning right onto Main, passing by my store with the flapping Antiques flag. His warning blasted a block away, allowing time to move inside or duck behind something. Potential customers, eyeing the sidewalk display of old iron beds and steamer trunks, would follow me as I’d slip through the door. From a safe distance, we’d cringe at the sound of his angry words. As the clamor of the one man parade blew by, they’d look to me, eyes wide, faces begging for solace and comfort.

“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!” he’d scream, shaking a fist at the invisible tyrant walking next to him.

          “It’s okay. He’s harmless, “ I’d say, peeking out from behind a gargantuan 19th century wardrobe. “It’s a form of Tourette’s Syndrome.” Noting their distrust, I’d add, “ Really. Nothing to worry about.”

One day, while on a ladder washing my store front windows, I hear the cursing turn the corner. There’s no time to scurry down the ladder, so I stay put, pretending oblivion to his noisy presence. I feel guilt and shame for being afraid. How can I shun a human being as if he’s invisible? It’s wrong.

Town talk claims he’s not violent, yet everyone seems to avoid him, and store owners complain that he runs off customers. My feelings of wrong doing linger, leading to eventual prayer and resulting in a sense of conviction. Befriending the cursing crusader became my mission. For starters, a simple greeting… Hmmm… Hello? … Good morning? … Howdy? … How ya doin’?

Every day, as the obscenities drew near, I’d pose in the door, ready to shout a cheer filled greeting. But as the angry banter closed in, I’d panic, stepping back through the door, breathing as if I’d just ditched a serial killer. This went on for days,… okay weeks… and some of that time I failed to even attempt communication.

Then, one day courage arrives (TA-DA!), like a late dinner guest I’d almost given up on. I was ready. When the string of expletives shadowed my door, I stood tall shouting above the swearing.

“Good morning!”

Glancing my way he replies.

“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!”

What? I was shaken and confused. This is not what I expected. I did what I felt God would want me to do, and… and… he yelled at me!

I’ll get back to this story, there’s more, but let’s pause a moment.

Am I the only one who does this? Plays let’s make a deal with God? Spouts sentences, whether verbal or in thought like, “If I do this then you’ll do that. Right God? “If I’m good you’ll reward me and it will look like _______________ “ (fill in the blank).

His word says:  Matthew 7:9 NIV: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Of course he doesn’t specify whether that bread will be white, dark, buckwheat or cinnamon toast. How many times have I thought God was not listening to my petitions, only to find out later that the answer was in front of me all along, just not as I’d pictured it. Worse yet, not the answer I wanted. God was not following the script I had prepared for him.

A simple personal example: My husband and I asked God to give us a sign if it was time to close our 16 year old antiques business. We’d asked this before when stress was high and sales were low. Each time, something obvious would happen that turned the business back around. So this time we were expecting something similar. Maybe that designer from Montana will show up with his big truck again, or the gals who bought out my entire line of estate jewelry will come back for more.

The morning after our prayer, news came that our last subcontractor was moving out. That meant we were losing money, not gaining. We should have thought immediately, “Oh, okay God, thanks for the prompt and clear response.” Instead, we scrambled, searching for ways to keep the doors open. Thank God, in the middle of a discussion to take on a hefty loan, we heard what He was saying.

 

Please know… I AM NOT saying we should shrink our expectations of God’s almighty power and desire to bless us. That’s not the point at all. He wants to bless our socks off. But, we, or at least I, don’t always recognize the blessing because it is not what I thought it should look like.

The timing was perfect for closing the business. Once we crawled out from under this burden, we could see the stress… the desperation. We’d been frantically bailing with a holey bucket, trying to keep afloat, safe from the sharks of failure. Little did we know God had a plan for us. Much better than our script… more creative… written by the Author of Happy Endings. Today we enjoy our home business, still dealing in antiques, but leisurely, with no overhead and stress free.

 

Back to the story…

I continued to greet the entrepreneurial cussing master. Days, weeks, months my exuberant greetings reaped only creative profanities. Then on a day no different than any other, it happened… after a simple “Hello.”

He stopped… motioned for the invisible antagonist on his left to wait, looked me in the eye and said, “Good Morning.”

Then he went back to yelling at his invisible debate partner.

The Christian’s Secret To Winning The Weight Loss Battle – Free No Risk Plan

boxer

“Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.”

 We’ve all heard versions of this quote by old English writer Cyril Connolly.   Days past, when thin, I met the sister who’s louder, more persistent and nasty. Thus the adjusted quote: “Inside every thin woman is a fat broad insisting to be let out.”

Truth be told, both voices duel bipolar style, in a constant battle to be heard, duking it out in the arena of my mind.

In this corner in the black trunks with tummy control panel, weighing in at sad pounds we have defending heavyweight champion… Fat Broad Deb. In the white trunks, the contender, weighing in at happy pounds, former lightweight champion… Skinny Broad Deb.

They argue nonstop…

Skinny voice: Tomorrow I will do 50 crunches, jog, eat all green foods. I will be healthy, fit and full of energy.

ice creamFat voice: If I can’t even have an ice cream cone with my grandchildren, what’s there to live for? What if I put green food dye on my ice cream?

Skinny voice: Food is for energy. I will use it like fuel saladand not eat what my body does not need. I am not hungry. I am satisfied.

Fat voice:  I’m starving and will surely die soon if I don’t have something decent to eat. I need satisfaction like fries, chocolate, cheese-cake. Without such pleasures, why get out of bed?

I promise, I do have a secret weapon that’s worked in the past and promises to work every time. I’ll get to that, really. But for now, back to the Whine Fest along with a short rant.

Now, can I honestly stare you in the computer screen and say “I don’t care what I look like?” No. But I can say, “healthy is the new hot, ” at least at my age. Lucky for me my hubby’s a dear, saying “ you’re just fat between fat3the ears.” Funny thing, ears are not what’s popping over my belt.

Speaking of acute belly abundance, every time I suck and stuff I think about the people who pay to have their fat removed via liposuction. Why? Have you ever thought about it? Duh! It’s a fuel source. People should be vying for my fat. It could provide heat through several winters, or, better yet, transform into a usable source of biofuel. We could take a road trip with a map tracking miles driven on our own fat. I can see the headlines now – WOMAN’S FLAB FUELS CROSS COUNTRY TRIP. Instead, we pay tons of cash to doctors who remove it with a beefed up Hoover vacuum. We don’t even get to take it home in a baggie. Just what do you think happens to those hefty bags of fat? Just saying. Rant over!

Jesting aside, both voices are liars and both speak some truth. It’s easy to find a healthy diet and exercise routine – they’re out there… pick one already. The problem is actually doing it. I talk a great diet and can chat about jogging while in the Yoga Lotus Pose. But the only times I have ever been successful at losing a significant amount of weight… God helps me. And, when I falter and the weight returns? He helps me again. No matter how many times I gain and lose like an accordion, He responds to my call for help.

That’s right. The secret is prayer. It works. I’ve tried to lose weight on my own for years, then I finally bring God on board and He transforms my thinking. I just can’t seem to go it alone. I still have to do the work, but He gives me the strength. prayer

If you were hoping for an easy fix, you just got it. Rest in Him. Pray. Trust. Have faith. He will encourage you even when there’s a sneaky inner voice whispering defeat in your ear while placing a heavy foot on the scale.

Praying through weight loss is certainly not a new concept. To help get you started I’ve posted a couple of great articles in agreement. I encourage you to check them out. Just remember, this is between you and God. He knows your relationship with food, what needs to change, where you are weak. Who better to have as a personal trainer?

Here is a good prayer to start.

A Prayer to Lose Weight (author unknown)

Guide me lord, as I strive to lose weight You are my light and my anchor, and with you I know all things are possible.

Help me this day to make healthy choices and give me the strength to fight against destructive cravings that negatively affect my health.

You said, “The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. As I bow before you today, raise me up help me towards my goals.

I have been taught that anything that replaces God is an idol. Help me to reject any unhealthy habit in which I seek false comfort. For you are my one true comfort and salvation.

In your name I pray, Amen.

http://thecovenantdiet.com/day-734-you-gotta-pray-through-for-a-break-through/

http://www.takebackyourtemple.com/supernatural-weight-loss-prayer/

When We Unplugged the TV … We Created Our First Children’s Book

I’ve had it … done … so over it.

Never listening …

Always talking … making noise

Telling me I should lose weight … smooth my wrinkles … take drugs with scary side effects

So … consider yourself unplugged.

That’s what we did about a year ago. We cancelled our cable TV service and haven’t regretted it for a moment. The decision was brutal. The consequences? Surprisingly fruitful.

We talk more. Walk more. Read more. And when we get bored? Well, we write a children’s book together. The one below is based on a true story told by our Grandson Ryder. I hope you enjoy the outcome of our new found creative family time.

Goldie: A Boy

(Of Course)

Cover Page

Written by Nana & Evan

Illustrated by Evan

Published by Grampa

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The story begins inside a sandwich bag.  I look up … down … side to pg 1side. I’m not alone.

 

pg 2                A door opens. I see a school sign. Fish know all about schools! We all swim happy laps in our bags.

A real teacher carries us to her classroom. She picks pg 3me to be first. Holding my bag up in the air she asks, “Who wants the first fish?” “Me! Me!” said a blonde boy with a big smile. “I’ll name him Goldie the Fish.”

 

 

All the other children named their fish Goldie too. pg 4

 

They call my boy Ryder. He introduced me to his Dad. He seemed grumpy on the drive home. All the Mom’s and Dad’s wanted to know why the children had a bag of fish. “What about candy hearts and Valentines?” they asked. pg 5

 Ryder’s Mom was nice. She asked if I was a boy or a girl. He told her I was a boy of course. That’s why he named me Goldie.

Pg 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My boy must have known I was coming to stay. Next to his bed was a bowl fit for a Kingfish and fully stocked with food. Fish Bowl 1

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning I exercised with a mess of guppies and then ate them for breakfast. When Ryder said good morning, he didn’t seem to mind.Fish Bowl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was grand. A bluish fish with more guppies on the side. Ryder didn’t seem to mind and even served me dessert from a small box. Fish Bowl 3

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner? Exquisite! A tasty, plump yellow fish, some wormy looking thing and more guppies. Ryder was still smiling when he said good night. Fish Bowl 4

 

 

 

 

The next morning I hear my boy yelling for his Mom. They point and stare with mouths open. Fish Bowl 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day Ryder asks Mom if I can go to school with him. “How are all the goldfish doing?” the teacher asked.

pg 12

My boy holds me up for all to see. pg 13“My Goldie is great!”

 

 

 

4th of July – A Time to Celebrate Our Freedom to …brag on Grandchildren

gboys2
Smitten image of Grandpa … watching a rocket soar.

With NO apologies, I’m using this blog post as a virtual wallet to show off our Grandsons. You’re welcome to counter with your own Grandchild boasts. Go ahead… it’s not a competition but rather a testimony of God’s grand crop of good fruit.

This weekend our five stunning grandsons will be together in our home to celebrate the 4th of July… that means blowing stuff up with Grandpa! I could go on about their many accomplishments in academics, sports, drama, blah –blah –blah. That’s all super, but I’m more enamored by their hearts, character, ability to love and their quirky senses of humor.gboys7

gboys9
Last year’s safety talk before the fireworks begin.

God promises good fruit for trees that stand firm. Celebrations like this prove His promise is alive and well. You see it in their eyes – hear it in their giggles. “Hey Na-Na … hey Na-Na … Na-Na? … Grandpa said it’s okay to spray you with the hose.” You feel it in the hugs. You question it during the tattling and mischievous acts. And, when the apologies, forgiveness and moving on occur, you cherish it. God’s promise shining in all they do.

Ryder, six, our youngest, is a sprite determined to do whatever the older boys do, plus one more. He steals hearts using an effective kindergarten version of Clark Gable’s grin. He’s half and half – love/stinker. His smile could light the ocean if ever the moonlight ceased.

Next comes ten year old Ty. Look out world! Wise AND willing to do whatever it takes to “get ‘er done.” We’ll find out what that means later. I just know it will be amazing. One of my favorite things about Ty, is that he’s always shown gratitude for God’s beauty – trees, sky, wildlife.

Of all our grandsons, Jarod, eight, is the one I’ve butted heads with the most. Why? He’s a  genius and knows how to use it. If something blocks the way to what he wants, before you can say “no” he’s built a bridge across the obstacle and is standing on the other side – smiling. He doesn’t know it, but I’m writing a guide for his future wife entitled “Jarod’s Bag of Tricks.” She’ll need this to counter his SUPER CHARMS.

Mathew, eleven, studies life … quietly, carefully. I don’t think he misses much. He has so many talents and gifts he could easily entertain himself with self-amusement, but instead he looks around. Wise, beyond his years. He’s our King Solomon, the one with the thoughtful answers.

Our eldest, Evan, at sixteen stands at the cusp of manhood, a young man of God. It feels like yesterday we were giggling at a tiny sparrow flapping its wings and now here stands an eagle… powerful… mighty… capable. The coolest thing about Evan is that he seeks after God, after righteousness. He wants to do what is right. He’s a humble eagle with a big heart.gboys3

All our Grandboys stand, proof of God’s amazing creativity. Each different… yet perfect in love.

When we’re young we dream dreams of who and what we want to be. I can’t say I remember wishing to be a Na-Na and yet this role has been the best blessing ever. Thanks God.

Okay… all done for now. Please feel FREE to share your own Grandchildren boasts.