Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


4 Comments

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)

Advertisements


6 Comments

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)

 

 


Leave a comment

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)


3 Comments

May God Bless You With . . .

true love
good health
restful sleep
stronger faith
financial stability
abundant wisdom
a generous spirit
hearty laughter
sweet peace
food enough
loyal friends
pure joy
Turkey 2015
Thanks for your love and encouragement!
Clarice

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)


10 Comments

God’s Antonyms to News Sound Bytes

hope PsalmIn the wake of the world events of last week, I could find nothing funny to write about. When God makes my heart merry again, the upbeat person I purport to be will return.

Until then, God help us all.

“. . .  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.: ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Antonym — Noun. A word that means the opposite of another word.

  • Allies vs. Enemies
  • Balanced vs. Radical
  • Blessing vs. Tragedy
  • Comfort vs. Torture
  • Compassionate vs. Heartless
  • Concern vs. Disregard
  • Defend vs. Attack
  • Educated vs. Ignorant
  • Feed vs. Starve
  • Forgiveness vs. Bitterness
  • Free Will vs. Brainwash
  • Gentle vs. Brutal
  • Genuine vs. Fake
  • Healed vs. Injured
  • Healthy vs. Sick
  • Heaven vs. Hell
  • Hero vs. Villain
  • Holy vs. Evil
  • Hope vs. Despair
  • Joy vs. Heartache
  • Kindness vs. Harm
  • Life vs. Death
  • Light vs. Darkness
  • Love vs. Hate
  • Mentor vs. Mislead
  • Merciful vs. Merciless
  • Peacemaker vs. Terrorist
  • Peace vs. Violence
  • Purification vs. Defilement
  • Rescued vs. Imprisoned
  • Reverence vs. Desecration
  • Reward vs. Payback
  • Spare vs. Kill
  • Sensitive vs. Desensitized
  • Sighted vs. Blind
  • Tenderhearted vs. Hardhearted
  • Truth vs. Lies
  • Victory vs. Defeat

One more antonym:  God’s bloodshed for the love and salvation of us all versus man’s bloodshed for hate and power over all.  

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him [Jesus] there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar  and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews 

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  ~ Luke 23:33-4 (NIV)


6 Comments

Is It My Imagination or Is Dandruff Waning?

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. ~ Psalm 40:405 (NIV)

thinking thoughtSome people study the planets and their solar systems. Others look to solve the mysteries of climate change and geological shifts. Many more grapple with hardened political landscapes and the suffering human condition.

Me, I ponder the mundane.

I’m not blind to the reason. It’s a form of denial and/or self-preservation. The realities of this world are too much for my tender mind to grasp. When my heart is breaking from all the bad news–and there seems to be no end to it–these less than deep thoughts and random questions creep in.

If you have any answers, send them my way.

  1. Is it my imagination or is dandruff waning? If it’s so, then why no online chatter? Will the CDC soon keep a sample in their vaults for research?
  2. Why did break-dancing go out of style just when I had it mastered?
  3. Who decided brass was out and silver and bronze were in? And now that I’ve switched, what evil minion decided brass was back?
  4. How come we want our cats to eat all natural food but don’t buy them bags of live mice?
  5. Where have all the nuns gone? No, seriously?Nuns
  6. When did local libraries become venues for video game matches, Pokémon clubs, and life-coaching sessions?
  7. When someone says, “I’m telling you this in love,” consider it more of a warning.
  8. Why are all female meteorologists required to have long hair? (Don’t believe me? Check for yourself.)
  9. Have I slowed down or has everyone else sped up? And do I really want to catch them?
  10. It makes me smile to imagine a community of fat, happy squirrels, squealing hysterically over the acorn harvest this fall.
  11. When did my beauty routine begin to include “check for chin hairs”?
  12. When someone feels the need to say, “You know, she really is a very smart person,” chances are no observable evidence will follow.
  13. If I apply for the “entry-level” position I saw online, what will I answer if they ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The way I see it, I can go one of two ways: “It depends” or “In Depends.”
  14. While I waited with bated breath for formal white gloves to make a comeback, bobby pins resurfaced. Who thought that was a fashion-forward statement?
  15. Nine out of ten people I ask say they never watch reality shows. Yet more keep cropping up. I suspect someone—besides the producers and cast—is lying.BobbyPin2

Speaking of reality shows, what about a show called “Real Housewives of New Hampshire”? Don’t the producers think we have what it takes? We might not be what you call fancy, but we’ve got us some stuff. (I, for one, own at least seven sweatshirts and three pairs of wear-in-public flannel pajama bottoms.)

Oh, and we have a dollar store of some kind within a stone’s throw of every AutoZone. No Nordstrom, but there are WalMarts and Goodwills aplenty.

And our homes? Many of us females have double or triple-car garages filled with man-sized toys and tools. More than a few of us own generators and snow blowers the size of Rhode Island. And if we have an overflow, it can be stored neatly in a dome-shaped polyethylene garage.

And talk about holiday decorations! Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and New York have nothing on us! We can display four holidays at once–maybe five if you count Groundhog Day–and leave them up all year round! No décor zoning laws in our Live Free or Die state. No siree, Shirley!

With all we have, it’s hard to stay humble. I know many around town mistake my 2001 mini-van for a 2000 model, but do I ever correct them to show off? Never! Cause that’s how Real Housewives from New Hampshire roll.

“Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” ~ Isaiah 66:2 (NIV)


9 Comments

There’s a Reason the Road is Less Traveled. People Like Me Can’t Find It.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.~ Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

road_less_traveled_GNYou know that famous “road less traveled” that M. Scott Peck wrote about? There’s a reason it’s less traveled. People like me can’t find it.

Kind friends refer to me as “directionally challenged.” Others call me names school children are forbidden to use. I’m more of an in-the-moment type of person rather than an observer-of-signs. Being in the moment is tough enough without  navigating simultaneously.

Maps, shmaps. My internal compass has convinced my brain that these statements make perfect sense: 1) NORTH is always the direction I’m facing; 2) SOUTH is always behind me; 3) EAST is to my right; and 4) WEST, to my left. Hey, it works a quarter of the time, so I can’t complain.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I second guess my every turn. You know what they say about second guesses. They’re stupid wrong. By the time I’m lost, it’s too late to determine if my first guess would have been right. Even now, after nine years of living in a small town in southern New Hampshire, every intersection brings a surprise. “Huh. So this is where this road comes out?”

I had my first big, lost adventure as a high school senior. I took a trip from Cape Cod to Providence, RI to visit my boyfriend with his young cousin. I assured her parents we’d be back before dark. As promised, with plenty of time, we got on the road. Which road was the question.

Searching for signs to the highway led me to dead ends and questionable neighborhoods. Each time I stopped for directions, I only remembered the last instruction the gas station attendant had given me me—which is never a good place to start. My young passenger became anxious. As darkness fell, her anxiety turned to fear. So did mine.

Being the older, more responsible one, it fell to me to reassure her. At the next turn, I sang out, “We’re fine! Yup. This looks familiar.” When the street lights grew further apart, I slowed to a crawl and clicked on my brights.

Good thing. We were in a beach parking lot about twenty feet from the ocean. In New Bedford.Road Sign Lost

Many years later, after I was widowed, I realized I had nothing to hold me back from traveling. When I noticed a “Lease Me” sign on a large, van-sized camper, I thought about driving across country. My excitement mounted. My mind raced. My bravado grew. Now all I had to do was run the idea past my friend, Kellie, who had taken on the role of my mentor (a nice word for watchdog. Every widow needs one. Trust me.)

While driving her home one afternoon, I broached the subject positively and coveted her blessing. She pondered the matter for about as long as it took me to miss her exit and circle the rotary three times. I can still see her folded arms and smug stare.

I know I’m not alone in this condition. Once, my friend, Brenda, and I decided to attend a women’s conference in Sturbridge, MA, about two hours away from our home on Cape Cod. We thought if we drove together, one of us could act as the navigator. We soon learned “acting” as a navigator didn’t necessarily equate to being one.

After we backtracked a few exits out of Connecticut, we arrived in Sturbridge and found the sprawling hotel. For three days we trekked up and down endless hallways, the conference rooms eluding us. I was relieved when we reached our destination almost on time for one of the events. Not wanting to disturb the speaker, I opened the door quietly, stepped in, then stopped short. Brenda, hot on my heels, rear-ended me, thrusting us unceremoniously into the small room.

We might have been publically humiliated—if it hadn’t been the janitor’s closet.

When travelling by car with my husband, he does most of the driving.  Okay, all of the driving. But I did offer once on our way to Virginia.

ME, with a pure motive and generous heart: “Want me to spell you for a while?”
HIM, glancing at me with raised eyebrows: “With your sense of direction?”
ME, gesturing with my hand toward the open road: “We’re on the highway! How lost could I get?”
HIM, narrowing his eyes: “What about your other issue?”
ME, my forehead furrowed: “What other issue?”
HIM, treading carefully: “Uh, haven’t you fallen asleep behind the wheel before?”
ME, pointing to the edge of the road, “Yeah, but that’s what rumble strips are for!”

Highway to Heaven Goes Through Jesus

Uh? Oh. I thought this was an artist’s depiction of a road to Heaven. My husband just told me it’s a picture of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I can even get lost in Google.

While on Earth, I’ll have to deal with roundabouts, stop signs, deadends, and plenty of wrong turns. Thankfully, to get to Heaven, all I have to do is hang onto Jesus. He’ll take me the rest of the way.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. ~ Hymn by John Newton (1779)