Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Lego My Ego

letto-egoI have a list of a thousand things–all good things–I want to do before I die. Sometimes I think I have to cram them all into one month.

When my activities start to overlap, things get pushed around: my priorities out of order, my finances out of line, my emotions out of control, and my back, well, just out.

I have a ready list of excuses too.

  • If I don’t do this, no one else will.
  • They’re counting on me.
  • It’s all part of marketing my book.
  • But I want to.
  • I’m not getting any younger. [Tell me, is anyone?]

Recently, when my serenity was crowded out by busyness, I had a hard time hearing God’s voice. And I needed to. [Duh.] So I prayed for the Lord to speak loud enough for me to hear over the din of my daily activities. He gave me this personalized paraphrase of 1 Kings 19:11-14 instead.

Go stand over there and be quiet. Don’t check your email or Facebook and stay away from Pinterest. Wait for God to speak.

A reader posted a 5-star Amazon review and bolstered my hopes before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the Amazon review; after the review, a great idea for another writers’ event, but God wasn’t in the event; and after the great idea, positive comments on a blog, but God wasn’t in the comments or the blog; and after the positive comments, a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Clarice heard the quiet voice, she muffled her face with her great lap blanket, went to the mouth of her writing cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Clarice, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Clarice said it again, “I’ve been writing my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of God have turned toward the secular market, destroyed your places of Christian publication, and murdered the written word. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”

egoOh, the ego of it all! When I feel like I’m not able to give up some of my activities, writing or otherwise, because there is no one who can possibly replace me, that’s when I know I’m in trouble. OVERBLOWN EGO TROUBLE.

To make it right, I need to let go of my ego and refresh my soul.  So now I’m waiting– really waiting– to hear the Lord’s gentle whisper.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)

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I Have Questions. Where is King Solomon?

QuestionsWhen the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem . . . she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. ~ 1Kings 10:1-3 (NIV)

The US is a complicated place, and the people who live here even more so. I have a few questions. If there’s a King Solomon out there, give me a call.

Do you have questions too?

  1. When a company advertises its frozen chicken product as having “ingredients like all meat chicken,” what exactly do they mean by like?Strawberry-Roll-ups
  2. Why do we say “You’re only [pick any age] once” and “You’re not getting any younger” as if it’s a lost nugget of Solomon’s wisdom?
  3. Why were consumers caught unawares when it was disclosed that strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups contain no strawberries?
  4. One day, a doctor can tell a woman smoking may harm the baby in her womb. The next day, another doctor can end that same baby’s life in that same womb. What kind of choice is that?
  5. Yes, bacon soap is real—but why?
  6. Speaking of soap, what happens to soap scum that doesn’t stick to your tile?
  7. Why does the news media blame drug addiction on everyone except the person who started taking the drugs? I know the problem is complicated, but shouldn’t we hold the addict accountable too?da14_bacon_soap_closeup
  8. Who decides what to do when an endangered animal eats another endangered species?
  9. That brings me to this: Why do sharks get more respect (and news coverage) than the seals they eat?
  10. Why can’t gruntled people get as much attention as their disgruntled counterparts? Sheesh. The word’s not even recognized by spell-check.
  11. Have you seen the ad for the Preparation H Totables which come in a “discreet, convenient travel size”? Pardon me, but isn’t all use of any Preparation H product meant to be discreet?PH
  12. If, for unknown reasons, either and/or both of our presidential nominees were unable to continue their race for office, how would a replacement candidate be chosen?  No, seriously, how?

 


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Finding Kissing Spots

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.  Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. ~ Psalm 85-10-11 (NIV)

Often, while walking behind my husband when he was seated on our couch, I’d stop and kiss his bald spot and say, “There’s a tiny kissing spot right there just for me.”

We both knew it hadn’t been tiny for quite a while. For some unknown reason it began expanding soon after we got married. I don’t have a scientific explanation, but I’m convinced it has something to do with climate change.

Anyway, when my husband was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in January, about the third thing I said was, “Hey! Do you think you’ll lose your hair?” I’m sensitive like that.

David responded matter-of-factly, “Probably.”

My face lit up. “You know what that means? I’ll have more kissing spots.”

David responded matter-of-factly, “Probably.”

I waited patiently. His hair didn’t fall out as fast as we assumed it would. Expecting it to happen after his second round of chemo, he had the nurse give him a buzz cut, but it remained fuzzy, then grew back. Then, two weeks after his third round of chemo —voila!—his head was as soft as pudding. (Well, not his whole head, just his scalp. Actually, I’ve never felt pudding, but you know what I mean.) Now I had a multitude of spots to choose from and I have kissed them all!

two heads sized

Can you say “good sport”? This is David in January then May.

I started to think about that term “kissing spot.” It was my positive way of looking at a negative situation. It reminded me of the joke, “While the optimist argued with the pessimist, the opportunist drank the water.” I wondered what other “kissing spots” I could find in the midst of this experience. I found a great example in my husband.

Every time . . .

  • a doctor or nurse practitioner reported test results—whether good or bad—he thanked them.
  • a person spent time with him, they left smiling.
  • a member of the housekeeping staff swept under his bad and emptied his trash, he told them how much he appreciated it.
  • a staff member changed her hair or wore something colorful, he complimented them.
  • a cafeteria worker brought him a meal, no matter how tasteless it looked to me, he acted excited and said, “Oh, yum!”
  • a group of med students rounded with the doctors, they left chuckling at one of his witty comments.
  • a nurse hooked him up to his rolling IV dance partner for a bag of platelets, packed red cells, or antibiotics, he thanked them.

    IV Stand

    David’s on and off dancing partner for the past 4 months.

He’d found their kissing spots. Now I needed to do the same.

In addition to his hospital room, I spent much of my time at the hotel, in shuttle buses, and trying to navigate my way from Dana-Farber to Brigham & Women’s. I saw a variety of people in various situations.

I thanked . . .

  • the young man walking by the hotel who lifted my heavy suitcases out of my car and put them onto the luggage cart.
  • the desk clerk who programmed my new cell phone’s GPS so I could find my way back to the hospital.
  • the two women who gave me a ride when I missed the last morning hospital shuttle.
  • the van and bus drivers who got me where I needed to go so I didn’t have to fight traffic.
  • every hospital volunteer or staff member who recognized the dumb look on my face and pointed me in the right direction–more than once.
  • the gifted hotel housekeeping staff whose kindness and consideration I will never  forget.
  • my son Chris, his wife Diana, my daughter Erin, and her husband Chris for helping me prepare my house for David’s homecoming.

It was my privilege to . . .

darn collecting 2

David’s sister, Darleen, beautiful inside and out.

  • spend quality time with David’s sister, Darleen, who donated her matching stem cells to her big brother.
  • pray with a woman who’d been told her husband was only a few days from Heaven.
  • get a smile from a little, bald girl when I told her her light–up pink sneakers were so cool.
  • listen as an immigrant father of two, a hotel guest, bragged about his children’s achievements since their move to the States.
  • tell a woman how well David was doing the day before she herself was due to have the same type of stem cell transplant.
  • spend hours with a patient who never whined or complained but exhibited a settled faith, patience, kindness, and peace through it all–my husband.

I learned something else. You won’t find kissing spots unless you’re looking for them. Don’t worry, they’re not hard to find. God puts them all around us.

kindness act.gif

 


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Soup, Pitiful Soup

After a full day in Boston visiting my husband at Brigham & Women’s hospital, followed by an hour and a half sleepy ride home, I stopped at my local grocery store to get something for supper. It’s hard to cook for one—especially when you’re tired, hungry, and decision-challenged.

Sweet Potato Soup with Quinoa & Coconut Milk by A Veggie Venture 2010-400

Soup, glorious soup!

As I entered the store, I had a soup flashback. A few months prior, I’d taken a chance on a concoction I’d never had before from the store’s soup and salad bar. It was quite tasty. I’d enjoyed it a few times since.

That night, driven by the memory of its flavor, my taste buds tingled and my stomach growled. Gripping the cart, I plowed through Produce and past Bakery, the thrill of the hunt spurring me on.

On the way, I questioned my fervor. At what point had soup become exciting to me? How long had this craving been simmering? Was it a by-product of age, maybe a post-post-menopausal thing? I still had all my teeth, so that couldn’t be it. Was I excited about all soup or just this particular soup?  (Research for another day, perhaps.)

Ooh, maybe it was a spiritual metaphor of some sort–but what sort?

Arriving at the soup bar, I skidded to a stop. A man about my age was checking things over, making it impossible for me to read the labels on the pots. I pushed my carriage closer. (I barely  bumped him, really.) “Oops, so sorry.”

He looked up. “No problem.”

When he lifted a full ladle to his nose, I recognized the soup and said under my breath, “That’s it! My soup!” I had to stop this interloper before he sniffed-up all the aroma with his sizable schnoz.

nose man

The nose knows.

I inched forward. “Take my word, it’s delicious.”

“Oh.” He reached for an empty pint container.

“Actually, that soup’s the very reason I’m here.” I held fast to my cart and didn’t budge, blocking his view of the quart containers. “They don’t make it often, and when they do, they don’t make enough.” I stared him down. “Like tonight.” Despite my subtlety, I hoped he got the hint and wouldn’t deplete the supply.

He half-filled his pint container, which made it easier for me to be pleasant. “Usually, I buy a full pint and eat half one day, then half the next, you know, never sure when they’ll have it again. Makes cooking for one easier. Have you tried their angus beef chili? That’s pretty good too.”

Despite our riveting, albeit one-sided, conversation, I needed him to hurry it up. I was so hungry, for the first time I could sympathize with Esau’s poor decision.

The man placed a top on his container. “My wife will enjoy it. Yeah, my wife likes soup. I’m bringing some home to my wife right now.” [Emphasis on wifehis.]

Now, I’d been single before, so I knew what he was thinking. And this wasn’t it.

I had a parallel retort in mind: “My husband would enjoy it. Yeah, my husband likes soup. I’d bring some home to my husband right now if my husband wasn’t in the hospital for a stem cell transplant!  How about that Mr. I’m-Married-So-Stop-Hitting-On-Me-Lady?”

But I didn’t say any of that. It would’ve resulted in pity soup–which shrivels the taste buds, constricts the throat, and hurts going down. Besides, eating pity soup would do nothing to expedite my husband’s discharge from the hospital.

Instead I smiled. “Hope your wife enjoys it.” (But not that much.)

By now many of you may be asking, “What kind of soup is it?” and “Where can I find this delightful ambrosia?”

My answer, of course, is, “No way. I’m not telling. NO SOUP FOR YOU!” (Sorry, I’m tired, it’s late, and that was way too easy.*)

soupnazi

“No soup for you!”

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” 

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. ~ Genesis 25:29-34 (NIV)

*Sweet Potato, Quinoa, & Black Bean from Hannaford Supermarket. Enjoy!


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Through a Glass Darkly: The Quilter

As an author, here’s how I see things vs. how they really are. Sort of.

The way I imagined it . . .   

Jeff ConwayRecently, while walking through the Mall of New Hampshire, I noticed a man, probably in his mid-forties, with his hair rolled into a slick pompadour like Jeff Conaway as Kenickie in Grease. He wore a royal purple  satin jacket with knit collar and cuffs. Embroidered in gold on the back were the words “Perth Amboy Foreign Autos.”

A short, sandy-haired woman dressed in a flowered turtleneck and denim jumper held his arm and clogged along loudly beside him. She looked nothing like Stockard Channing as Rizzo.

While the happy couple admired the display of miniature hand-blown glass animals at a kiosk, I “found” them a family.

A trio of tittering pre-teens, windowshopping outside Claire’s, seemed perfect for the role of their daughters. I named them Sephira, Solara, and Sienna.

A 15-ish square-built boy, looking bored near the escalator, became their son. The crotch of his jeans was almost level with his kneecaps. Crippled by this ill-advised design, I dubbed him Yugo.Yugo

They’d traveled all the way up from Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show. It had been held over the weekend at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro, where “Mrs. Kenickie” had taken first place.blue-ribbon

The family planned to return home directly after the judges’ decision in time to phone friends and family before the news got old. They would’ve, too, but for the nuisance of a dragging muffler on their 1992 Chrysler Town & Country mini van.

Rather than pay for an extra night at Motel 6, they hiked to the mall about a mile from the mechanic’s garage. Before they entered, their kids watched as their proud dad pinned the blue ribbon to their mom’s jumper.

The family whiled away the hours, not bothered by their car trouble, just pleased to be together to celebrate this milestone occasion.

The way it was . . .   

John Travolta hairThe couple, Hank and Betty Dutra, hailed from Raymond, NH. Hank combed his hair this way because twenty-seven years ago Betty told him he kinda looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Hank bought the royal purple satin jacket (practically brand new) with the Perth Amboy logo for $5.00 at Goodwill because he’d never owned anything from Australia before. Betty hated it. He wore it today mainly because she’d made him come to the Mall.

Despite Hank’s jacket and hard-headedness, Betty wanted this day to feel special. That’s why she’d exchanged her comfy sweats for a proper jumper. After all, it was Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, not Dollar Tree in Raymond.

Used to her everyday sneakers, she clung to Hank’s arm, unsteady in her dress clogs.clogs

As they passed by the kiosk filled with miniature hand-blown glass animals, Betty  whispered to Hank, “Who on earth would pay these prices?”

Hank answered, “Who knows? Maybe the kind of people who live in Hollis and Bedford and Exeter.”

They listened to a trio of girls cackling outside Claire’s and witnessed a teen boy’s jeans slip down to his knees.

Hank shook his head. “Aren’t you glad we have dogs?”

“Don’t forget the chickens,” Betty said. “They might cackle but at least they keep us in eggs.”

flex-seal-liquid_1000After a few hours of browsing, they bought some Flex Seal Liquid Rubber (as seen on TV) so they could repair the used truck bed liner they purchased for their 2016 double cab Ford 2500.

The blue ribbon on Betty’s jumper? It was there when they left the house. She’d taken first place in the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show held at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro that weekend.

And Hank made sure everyone in the Mall of New Hampshire knew it.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)


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Posies, Puppies, & Posterior

I’m back—but then you knew I couldn’t stay away long. I’ve got a lot to say. Mainly, THANK YOU to everyone who’s prayed, sent cards, emailed, texted, called, and dropped off meals while my husband, David, continues on the high and low roads to recovery.

posies puppy and posterior

Three of the many cards we received. *Cheek not David’s.

I love all those . . .

  • Who kept in touch since you first heard the Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis and said, “Let me know if I can do anything.”
  • Who sent just the right card—or multiple cards!
  • Who sent daily Scripture verses.
  • Who only know us through Facebook, yet offered to pray.
  • Who wrote and spelled every word right (well, most of you but you all get a pass this time). 🙂
  • Who happened upon my blog, read it, and commented.
  • Who cooked and/or baked or bought something delicious for us. (Downside for you: I will blame you for my weight gain.)

Because I have a weird sense of humor (and need material for my next book), I even love those who said stuff like this . . .

  • “You look tired. And I’m going to tell you every time you do.” [That was you, Deb.]
  • “I’ve heard of AML. I think my aunt died from that.”
  • “Did the doctors tell him the treatment could damage his vital organs?”
  • “How do you feel about your husband having cancer?”

Seriously, these friends are the ones who feel close enough to speak what’s on their minds and in their hearts. One of them crocheted my husband a prayer shawl and a matching hat in a week. Another prays with her granddaughter that David won’t get a fever. One offered to keep me company on one of my many trips into Boston. One made sure we had pie on π Day. Another offered to lend David one of her wigs—chin strap included! All of them have kept me laughing!

When someone is battling illness, it’s hard not to let it define you. Early on, that was my first prayer with David. “This is cancer, it’s not us. We are Christians. We have faith. We know what the ultimate future holds. We are not afraid.” We’ve had to repeat that statement a few times, but only because we are also human.

While the hardest part for me is seeing my husband sick, for those who know David, the hardest part for him is not being around (or able) to help me. His love language is service—particularly service to me. I am blessed!

We’re trying to live as normally as possible, but it’s hard to do.  First, because we’re not that normal to begin with. Second, we have a visitors’ ban in place. We haven’t seen children and grandkids since Christmas! As soon as David’s blood counts level out, that will change!

Since David felt so bad when I had to cancel my book launch celebration originally scheduled for January 31, he encouraged me to go ahead and have the celebration anyway. So, on Sunday, April 10–which happens to be the day before the Red Sox opener at Fenway–we will celebrate Double Header, my first published novel. God has good timing, I think.

I would love to see you there. If you have a copy already, bring it to be autographed. If you have one that’s autographed, come anyway to celebrate with me and enjoy some ballpark-style refreshments!

So I know how much food to have on hand, please register on EventBrite at http://tinyurl.com/zbntf2b.

image001

Every card reflects the richness of family and friends.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (MSG)

 

 


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The Great American Whine Flu

StopWhining400“In holy worship they’ll honor the Holy One of Jacob and stand in holy awe of the God of Israel. Those who got off-track will get back on-track, and complainers and whiners learn gratitude.” ~ Isaiah 29:23-24 (MSG)

I want to become less of a whiney American, as in a United-States-of-America American. [Whether the Great American Whine Flu has spread over the borders into Canada or Central and South America, I cannot say.]

Here on the home front, I will start in these small ways:

  • I promise not to stand in the cereal aisle and whine nasally, “But it’s so ha-rd to decide with all these choices.”
  • If a retail store’s computer is hacked by criminals, I’ll cut up my card and cut my losses. I won’t threaten them with a class action lawsuit. Besides, any pockets lined by winning that case will NOT be mine.
  • If television continues to offer trashy and ignorant reality shows filled with fake, tasteless drama (and people), I will stop watching them. I have the power; it’s as close as the off button on the remote.
  • In addition to the price tag, I will check the “Made in . . . ” labels before I start my self-righteous rants about the horrors of child labor.
  • Before I argue that every citizen in this grand country of ours deserves flat screens in every room, the latest technology for their pre-teens, huge master baths and  walk-in closets, and brand new vehicles in their three-car garages, I will take a closer look at the Native Americans.
  • Before I whine about all the candidates running for President, I will be thankful I am not one of them and more thankful I can vote.
  • Before I complain about the songs my church’s worship leaders select, I will be thankful for the freedom to worship.

book-ugly-americanAs for any opinion foreign nations may have of me as an American, I hope to make a small difference in the future:

  • If I ever visit Switzerland, I promise not to say, “What’s with all the cuckoo clocks? Doesn’t anyone here own a smart phone?”
  • If I take a trip to Rome, I won’t wear a belly shirt to the Vatican and complain, “I could never live in this neighborhood. The buildings are in ruins.”
  • If I end up on House Hunters International looking for a free-range, sustainable lifestyle, I will try not to get filmed saying, “What? No stainless steal appliances?” or “What’s with all those ugly windmills?”
  • If I go north to Canada, I won’t ask, “Why’s it so cold up here?” Or, if I go south to Ecuador, I won’t say, “Why’s it so hot?”
  • If I visit Iceland (which is not on my bucket list, by the way), I won’t assume all their clocks are wrong because the sun is out at midnight.
  • If I decide to go over the border to Mexico, I promise not to ask, “Don’t you have any real Mexican food like Taco Bell?”
  • If London is my final destination, I won’t complain that they don’t speak English clearly. At least they try.
  • Whatever country I visit outside of my own, I will refuse to use this phrase: “That’s not the way we do in the States.”

Need I go on? I could, you know. But then that would be whining–or worse, preaching.

WH-PES-012-Thou-Shalt-Not-Whine

PS: God? If I don’t whine for a while, do you think maybe I could get that new kitchen I want? I would really appreciate it. No, really, I would. Pleeeese . . .

Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: “Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth.” These are the “grumpers,” the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead. ~ Jude 1:14 (MSG)