Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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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)


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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)


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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)


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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)


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So Much for the Power of Prayer by C. L. Raj

Carol Raj

Carol L. Raj

Welcome my guest blogger and freelance writer, Carol L. Raj!  Carol was a finalist in the 2015 ACFW Genesis Contest in the category of Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Her children’s stories have been published in Pockets Magazine as well. She is the mother of three grown children–all of whom are good  drivers!–and grandmother of one, who is undeniably the cutest granddaughter ever. Carol resides in Merrimack, New Hampshire with her husband. Learn more about Carol on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.raj.79.

She shares this true story with us today . . .

My daughter threw the notice from school onto the kitchen table, grabbed the house phone, and disappeared behind her slammed bedroom door. I could hear her voice rising and falling as she confided her latest problem to one of her friends.

What could possibly be so wrong?

I picked up the notice. Her state driving exam would be administered by the driving instructor at school on Wednesday at six PM. No changes allowed.

I had prayed for an early afternoon appointment. Plus a little more practice time for her to master backing up. A six PM test was not in my plan.

So much for the power of prayer.

Lord, remember how badly she wants this license?

Her greatest worry was backing the driving instructor’s car between the two parked cars he set up for the test. Even in daylight, it was not easy for a beginning driver. At six PM it would be pitch black. The school parking lot was lit by only an occasional lamppost.

park cones

Fear of Parallel Parking!

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. ~ Psalm 4:1 (NIV)

Most of her friends already had their licenses. In our small town there was no public transportation. If we wanted to go somewhere – anywhere – we had to drive. She was embarrassed to ask for rides. More embarrassed to take the school bus. And most embarrassing of all? To be driven by her mom.

I understood. After all, despite what she thought, I was a teenager once myself.

Her bedroom door swung open, hitting the door stop with a bang. “What if I can’t back into that spot? What if I never get my license? What if I have to ask for rides the rest of my life? What if I just can’t do it?”

“If you don’t get your license this time, you’ll take the test again. No problem.” My reply seemed incredibly reasonable. A loving mother response. It was answered by the banging, once again, of her bedroom door.

It was going to be a long time till Wednesday. And there was nothing I could do.

Except pray that it wouldn’t rain. That would make the visibility even worse.

Sunday night the weatherman showed storms marching across the continent. Monday night he said rain was probable mid-week. Tuesday night he predicted rain in twenty-four hours.

So much for the power of prayer.

Lord, remember my daughter’s driving test? Lord, are You even listening?

All day Wednesday I stayed tuned to the radio.

Oh, Lord. Please let the rain start after her test. She wants this license so badly.

After an early dinner, she looked out the window. No rain yet.

“So far, so good,” I said brightly.

My daughter rolled her eyes. “M-o-m! I have to pass this test. All my friends know I’m taking it today. How can I tell them I flunked? I’ve never flunked anything in my life.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve been praying about your test.”

“A lot of good that’s done.”

I turned on the kitchen faucet and pretended I didn’t hear.

At 5:30 we went out to the car, buckled our seat belts, and started off. Thick clouds hid any light from the moon or stars.

A drop of rain plopped on the windshield.

car in rain

Could have been so much worse!

My daughter groaned. “M-o-m! It’s starting to rain!”

“It’s just a drop. Don’t worry.”

We could deal with a few drops. Couldn’t we? But the first drop was followed by a second. Then a third. Soon the drops turned into a drizzle.

My daughter sat stony-faced, arms folded across her chest.

Lord, remember my prayer?

The drizzle morphed into a steady shower.

By the time we reached the parking lot, the shower was a downpour. Sheets of moisture gushed from the sky. It seemed we had taken a wrong turn and ended up under Niagara Falls. I squinted through the windshield trying to detect the lines designating parking spaces. They had disappeared.

Thank goodness I wasn’t backing up into a narrow space.

Lord, where are You?

My daughter trudged off to the instructor’s car with as much enthusiasm as if she were going to get her braces tightened. Soon the lights of the test vehicle pulled out of the parking lot. Thirty minutes later she was back.

“Move over, Mom. Let me drive home.”

“How’d it go?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes at my apparent stupidity. “Fine. No problem.”

“You got your certificate?”

“Yes, mother.”

Thank you, Lord.

I had one final question. “You were worried about backing the car into a parking space. You didn’t have any problem doing that?”

“Well, you know,” she said. “That’s the funny thing. The instructor said the visibility was too bad in the rain. He said we’d skip that part of the test.”

So much for the power of prayer.

 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! ~ Psalm 66:20 (NIV)

 


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Orange Is the New Gullible

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. ~  Stephen Colbert, Talk Show Host & Comedian

gullibleCynics are angry, unpleasant, sad people who love to mock everyone and everything. Anyone can be cynical. It’s easy. All you have to do is believe the worst about people and situations. Then when someone or something disappoints you, you can be smug and snarky and say, “I knew it.”

Gullible people are happy; their smile is uplifting. They make us laugh. It takes a much greater faith to be gullible. I know that from personal experience.

I was 30 when my now late husband convinced me that rabbits lay eggs. The conversation went something like this.

HIM, looking at the five empty Easter baskets I’d retrieved from the attic: “It’s gonna take a lot of rabbits to lay a lot eggs to fill those baskets.”

ME, chuckling: “I think you mean chickens.”

HIM, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter: “That’s what everyone thinks.”

ME, rolling my eyes: “Because it’s true. There’s no such thing as rabbit eggs. Rabbits have bunnies.”

HIM, looking incredulous: “Why would an Easter Bunny bring chicken eggs? Rabbit eggs are rare because of that protected bird. You know, the one the Fish and Wildlife Service is always fussing about becoming extinct?”

ME, reaching into a memory bank: “Which one? The piping plover?”

HIM, holding his hands out about twelve inches apart: “Nah, it’s that huge bird with the long, pointy, curved beak. It only comes around after the snakes go into hibernation.”

ME, still trying to come up with the name of the bird: “Snakes hibernate?”

HIM, nodding his head: “You were never a 4H girl, were you? The bird shows up in late winter-early spring to scout rabbit rookeries. It pokes a hole in the rabbit eggshell and sucks out the insides.” 

ME, screwing up my face: “Ew. That’s gross.” 

HIM, shaking his head: “I know, right?” 

ME, thinking about starting a foundation: “Why doesn’t the Fish and Wildlife Service protect the rabbits, too? We should do something.”

HIM, rubbing the scruff on his chin: “We might could switch to chicken eggs this year.”

ME, shrugging: “It’s not much, but it’s a start.”

But it didn’t end there . . .

  • When we had to give our misbehaving German Shepherd away, I believed he went to live on a farm. Actually, I still believe that.
  • I thought paying tradesmen the full amount up front would put me at the top of their list.
  • I once replaced $100 stolen from a waitress (known to have a drug problem), so she could get her daughter a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas. I was amazed when no one else chipped in.
  • It took me years to realize the things I found under my kids’ mattresses weren’t hidden there by their troubled friends.
  • I took one of my shoes off for a burly truck driver (who was unloading lumber onto a loading dock) so he could check the designer. He held it for a few seconds longer than was necessary—or comfortable. When I asked my boss if that sounded weird, he banned me from accepting deliveries.
  • Before buying a special “Al Capone” roast in the Italian North End of Boston, the butcher told me I needed an ID. I presented him with two forms to make sure I got a choice cut.
  • I made online arrangements to rent a room to a college girl whose father was an Irish engineer working out of Nigeria. When I caught onto his scam, I scolded him. “You should be ashamed of yourself.” I’m pretty sure it changed his life.
  • Even though I get the joke, I’m still trying to say the word “gullible” slowly until it sounds like the word “oranges.” [Oh, come on, some of you are doing it, too!]

I admit gullible people are often wrong in what they believe and repeat. But I’d still rather be lied to and laughed at than chance mistrusting an honest person. It helps me enjoy the journey to reality rather than be miserable the whole way to it.

Besides, who would you rather spend the day with? The woman on the left below or the man on the right? I thought so. One has the gift of gullibility. The other clearly does not. Can’t you imagine telling this woman just about anything? She would smile even as he harrumphed.

Deb Bock and Friend

LEFT: My friend, Debra, with her ever-present, unsuspecting smile. RIGHT: A cranky cynic I’m glad I do not know.

The award-winning children’s books illustrator and author, Chris Van Allsburg, said it well:

The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.

Platypus-Ears

Right. How about a cynical Easter platypus? Sure.

ME, being interrupted by my husband while writing this: “What did you say, honey?”

HIM, repeating his comment: “Did you know that the duck-billed platypus lays eggs?”

ME, slumping in my chair: “You don’t really expect me to fall for that, do you?”

HIM, shrugging off a smile: “How ’bout tomorrow I take you to the farm to see that dog of yours?”

ME, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: “You mean it?”

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~ Matthew 10:16 (NIV)


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Dating and the Half-Blood Prince

Nine years ago, I remarried after being widowed for eight years. I found a great guy who understands meyet, amazingly, has never tried to run off.

That I know of.

Because I found happiness again, single women often ask me how I met my husband. As if how I met David would work the same way for them.

My advice to them is to pray and wait. Do things you enjoy, learn something new, help someone less fortunate, and spend time with your family and friends. If God has someone for you, He is more than able to bring you two together—without your help.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~ Proverbs 27-13-14 (NIV)

Why am I qualified to give this advice? Because I did everything wrong.

Most of my seeking was on faith-based, online dating sites. Though I found a number of men in my age-bracket, our other brackets didn’t line up. I know “wacko” isn’t a nice word, but let’s just say, I had family and friends who would’ve chased these men off with a stick.hoFleischmannRapidRiseYeast (2)

  • The man who took turns doing jail time with his fourth wife on domestic abuse charges. He told me, “Don’t worry, we’re getting a divorce.”
  • The man who refused to date a woman who had ever had a yeast infection.
  • The man who lived in the woods while waiting on the Lord to give him a trailer.
  • The man who lived in a trailer while waiting on the Lord for the right time to downsize.

To be clear, I didn’t date many men at all during those years. Sometimes just reading their profiles was enough (or should have been). However, I did communicate with a number of them via the websites, email, or phone.

I often asked myself why. Why did I respond to every inquiry? Why did I continue after the initial exchange? Why did I agree to speak by phone?

The answer is complicated. Since I was lonely, bored, and insecure, empathy played a big part. I felt bad for them. I didn’t want to be mean or rude and make them feel worse. Sometimes it was the writer in me, rubbernecking from a safe distance. Their lives were so different from mine; I wanted to get up close, but not too personal.

I knew my curiosity wasn’t healthy. It got the best of me the night I agreed to meet one of the online bachelors at a Borders bookstore. I knew we weren’t a good fit the moment I saw him. Yet fascination drew me in. And there was the whole not wanting to be mean thing.

We ordered coffee and found a table. He sat facing the window; I sat facing him and the store. Since my interest had peaked prior to the date, when he told me that he and his older brother lived with their mother [Did I mention they were in their fifties?], what little interest that remained waned.

Trying to salvage the conversation, I asked, “So what do you do for a living?”

His face lit up. “I mow lawns. My brother has a paper route.” [Did I mention they were in their fifties?]

tumblr_kzb0vfjtHR1qbrupjo1_400 (2)Pretending to pay attention is a lot like lying. And I’m not good at it; I felt guilty. So when an eerie pale-faced, bald man dressed in black slithered through my peripheral vision, I thought I was being chastised.

I recovered my composure and changed the subject. Since his profile had been on a Christian website, I asked, “So what church do you attend?”

“We attended a great church in New Jersey, but we haven’t found one we like here yet.”

“Oh. How long have you lived here?”

“Eighteen years.”

I tried to morph my “you’re kidding me” face into a calm “I see” expression. My disingenuous reaction only stirred up an even more ominous-looking apparition, which skulked back and forth behind my date’s chair.

I remember thinking, “If I keep my eyes straight ahead and try to be kind and truthful, maybe the hallucinations will go away.”half-blood

It didn’t work. I started seeing witch hats and broomsticks between the books shelves. And it was June.

But when Harry Potter himself sat down nearby for a chai latte with Professor Dumbledore, I had to ask my date if he saw them, too.

“Sure. J.K. Rowling’s latest book. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out today. Most of the staff and customers are in costume.”

I scanned my date for the umpteenth time. Was he dressed up, too? Did I dare ask?  I considered his two possible answers. Neither would brighten our future.        

The very next day I surrendered my will and my search and deleted all my online dating accounts. As I was doing one final click-through, Yahoo Personals popped up–a site I had not joined. Or had I? I did a quick look to be sure.

And—yahoo!—I found David.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)


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But That’s Okay. We’re Boomers. We’ll Figure Something Out

Welcome My Guest Blogger Kathleen D. Bailey!

KBailey-2015 - Small

Kathleen is a freelance and staff writer with a lifetime devotion to the printed, and now the digital page. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s and 70s and a young mom in the 80s. Kathleen says, “It was a turbulent, colorful time to come of age. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and written about most of it. I share some of that on my website Kathleen D. Bailey, along with book reviews and snippets from my fiction writing. Join me in the wonderful world of words!”

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. ~ Pr 16:31 (NIV)

I’m so happy to be asked to blog with Clarice! I’ve enjoyed getting to know her this past year. We have a lot in common, from Catholic childhoods, don’t get me started, to home decorating, to, of course, writing.

I’ve been able to cheer her on in the process of getting Double Header between covers and on to bookstore shelves. But I was dismayed to learn recently that an editor rejected her first book, Party of One, because stories about older women don’t sell. I’m not blaming them, they don’t control the market, but sheesh. As an older woman, I didn’t like hearing that I’m not all that interesting.

But wait, it’s about to get worse.

Intrigued by the promos for TV Land’s new series Younger, I decided to give it a try. I lasted about 20 minutes. I’m from the three-dot school and I thought Fifty Shades of Grey was about hair coloring. I left these 20-somethings to their courting of Chlamydia and escaped. But like Lot’s wife I looked back, not at the sexual content but at the premise.

Younger tells the story of Liza, a suburban divorcee of 40 who can’t get a job in New York Publishing because of her age. This is the same New York Publishing (capital letters intentional) where Anne Hathaway has trouble being true to herself in The Devil Wears Prada, and the stakes are higher for Liza. She’s in pretty good shape for 40 and her best friend urges her to “pass” for 26, whereupon– bingo–she lands the job.

7--year-old Dame Helen Lydia Mirren in the movie RED.

70-year-old Dame Helen Mirren in the movie RED. “But that’s okay. We’ll figure something out. We’re Boomers.”

There is so much wrong here I don’t know where to begin and I guess I’ll start with the perception of 40 as “old.” Forty was supposed to be the new 30 and if it isn’t, what is 30 not the “new” of?

I’d love to have my 40-year-old body back. The mind, not so much. I’d like to have my 40-year-old memory and sharpness, but not the judgmental spirit and bad decisions. I wouldn’t want to give up what I’ve learned, sometimes through dark places, in order to be “young” again. But I don’t need to worry. According to the TV show, 40 isn’t young.

I cringed to see “Liza” adopting her co-workers’ slang and hanging out with them. I watched long enough to see her acquire a 26-year-old boyfriend. Whatever did they talk about? Oh, right, these people don’t talk.

What were the first 40 years of her life worth? Apparently not enough when placed against the grander scheme of New York Publishing.

It’s also significant to me that the producers didn’t go for a 50-or 60-something pretending to be 40 or 30. Was it simply too impossible to make a 50-or 60-year-old hot enough? Or was it too impossible to imagine them in New York Publishing? Or was it too impossible to imagine a REALLY OLD PERSON doing something that dumb?

This isn’t resume tweaking, people. It’s a denial of who “Liza” is, who she’s spent 40 years becoming. No job is worth that.

And it’s a denial of what older people, seniors, elders, whatever, have been working toward since the Boomers began to age. The right to age with dignity, to be respected for what we’ve done and who we are. To love and learn and take risks, to keep our minds and bodies as sharp as we can for the next adventure. To matter.

Except for Betty White, who’s not typical, we’re not going to see a lot of women on the small screen who look like us. And unless some people publish independently, we’re not going to read about them. Nobody’s going to validate us unless we do it ourselves. But that’s okay. We’re Boomers. We’ll figure something out.

And Clarice will get her book between covers somehow, some time.

Because our stories need to be told.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. ~ Isa 46:4 (NIV)

More About Kathleen:  This year, Kathleen semi-finaled in American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis, finaled in Lone Star, and won in her category in TARA. She’s an active member of Journey Church, teaching the children’s mission program and working in its homeless ministry. She also enjoys baking for college students, service people, and community events. She and her husband David live in Derry, NH. Find Kathleen on Facebook and LinkedIn. [She does kind of a lot for an “old” Baby Boomer, don’t you think? – CJ]

image001Readers (and Publishers?): Please check out these novels which feature older protagonists.

STAND-ALONE BOOKS:

SERIES:

 


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Speaking of the Pope and Things Catholic . . .

With Pope Francis’s visit to the United States upon us, I’ve been thinking back on my childhood. I was raised in a large Catholic family on Cape Cod. During my formative years, we attended St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis. The name may sound familiar to you because it was the same church where Jack and Jackie Kennedy attended Mass in the summer, where Arnold and Maria got married, and where Eunice Kennedy Shriver was eulogized.

Jackie Arnold etc

For some reason, all the talk of the Pope has stirred my conscience. I’ve been convicted to confess a sin I’ve been holding back for decades. Even flying under the radar as a hand-raising Protestant for the last 35 years has not removed this last bit of Catholic guilt.

My memory is kind of fuzzy, but I’ll do my best to recount the event accurately—then I’ll use literary license (which is not considered lying, by the way). Here’s what I remember about that day.

St. Francis 1950s

St. Francis Xavier Church, Hyannis, MA

It was still cold out, maybe a few days before Easter–one of the two major holidays which warranted two priests and all four confessional booths. The church was packed. There were three pews full of people ahead of us.

My mother and three of my five siblings were there. I was around ten, maybe. I specifically recall wearing a dress under my winter jacket. I remember my mother’s long, powder blue coat. I always loved that coat on her.

In church, my mother always looked holy to me. She knelt with her back straight, never resting her bum on the seat like less disciplined parishioners. She bowed her head without hunching her shoulders, and folded her hands like an artist would paint them. 

Her children, however, did not. We wiggled and squiggled. Especially that day, the day I interrupted my mother’s holy pose with a whisper.

Me: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Mom: “You’ll have to wait.”

Kennedy Plaque on Pew

Plaque on the Kennedy family pew

Me: “I can’t wait.”

Mom: “We’ll lose our turn.”

Me: “Can’t I go by myself?”

Mom: “No, because if you leave you’ll have to go to the end of the line. Besides, your father is waiting.”

Me: “But Mom—”

Mom: Shh. We’re almost there.”

All I could see was the 27 people in front of us—some of them old.  And old people always had more to confess, I knew that much.

By some miracle I made it safely into the confessional booth and knelt gratefully on the soft, red velveteen kneeler.

Seconds before the priest slid the tiny door open, I peed my pants.

St. Francis Xavier Church Hyannis

Follow the arrow, then skip this booth.

Mortified and petrified–if not physically relieved– I confessed the sins I had on my list—except the latest one. Once I received my penance (three Hail Marys and two Our Fathers), I rushed back, crying, to tell my mother. Without a word, she maneuvered my brother into the second booth and went into the booth I had vacated.

As only a mother would do, she soaked up the wet with her powder blue coat, then calmly confessed her sins, and went to the altar for her due penance.

I still have questions about that day. Did the people who used the confessional booth after us blame the person ahead of them for their wet knees? Was one of them a Kennedy? Did the Secret Service investigate?  Did they replace the velveteen? Am I the reason the bishop Gerrymandered the parish lines so we had to attend a different church the next year?

Recently,I asked my mother about this traumatic event. She said she didn’t remember it. How could a mother not remember one of her kids peeing in a confessional booth? Were we that bad that this was a minor offense easily blotted from her memory?

Perhaps God gives mothers a selective memory to keep them sane. Or does He bless them with the ability to throw their children’s sins as far as the east is from the west?

Finally, let me do what I came to do: “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I am sorry for my sin of emission.”

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV)


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Like Only a Grandmother Could Fantasize

Max 9-2105 first dayFor weeks, I’d been looking forward to a sweet time of bonding with my two youngest grandchildren: Max, 7, and Margaux, 5. Wonderful ages, such bright and lively children. I planned to collect as many precious memories as I could squeeze into three days.  I coveted the time I would spend alone with them when their parents weren’t around to bother–I mean distract us.

Fantasy: First, I would interview them for my blog, making sure to record every cute and amusing answer they gave me.

Reality: After I asked one or two questions, Max informed me, “I don’t do interviews.” Margaux was a little more diplomatic. “Do we have to do this right now?”

Fantasy: I’d snuggle up with them on the couch or on their beds and entertain them with stories.

Reality: They don’t snuggle; they squirm and fidget and jump. They also don’t want me to talk while they’re watching loud Nickelodeon TV shows filled with stupid slapstick humor and canned laughter. [I can too say stupid if I want!]

Fantasy: We’d tell each other silly jokes and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

Reality: They told me one silly joke. Over and over. At one point, when I was pretend-laughing, Margaux pointed out that my teeth were a little yellow.

Fantasy: We’d prepare fun meals, which we’d then share together at the dining room table.Margaux 9-15 First day

Reality: Margaux does not eat. Period. During the three days I was there, I think she had three cheese sticks, one apple Crusher, and two yogurt smoothies. I’m still not sure she swallowed. Max’s diet consists of nothing I could actually make, or if I could, I wouldn’t get it right. And he eats at the table with half his bottom on the chair, the other half on its way to a place way more interesting than the table with me. Then it takes a half hour to wipe up after him.

Fantasy: We’d enjoy the local children’s museum, and I’d purchase each of them an educational toy from the gift shop.

Reality: They did enjoy the museum. Yay! I had a hard time keeping up as they ran from one interactive display to another.  At one point, I strongly suspected they were trying to ditch me.

Big surprise, there was nothing in the gift shop they wanted. So we went to Marshalls, where we found an ice cream play set for Margaux. Max couldn’t find anything he liked there, so we went to Walgreens for Pokemon cards. A part of me thought, Should I be encouraging a 7-year-old in a card game where fictional characters are captured by humans and trained to fight each other to the death? A bigger part of me just gave in.

We also bought jelly beans and gummy bears to serve as toppings for their make believe ice cream concoctions. On our way home, Margaux spilled the jelly beans on the floor of my car. [I discovered a half dozen in my pocketbook today.] When we arrived home, Max dumped the sticky gummy bears on the carpet (a.k.a. “ice cream counter”). However, we did play make believe with the ice cream set. Over and over and over and over. Up until I told them I was lactose intolerant.

Fantasy: It is possible to be a fun and responsible grandmother at the same time.

Reality: Maybe not. I said nothing when they ate the dirty jelly beans and fuzzy gummy bears and even when they shared them with their father. [As the youngest of my three kids, I figured he wouldn’t know the difference.]

Fantasy: Planning makes for more fun.

Reality: Going with the flow works best.

Fantasy: I’m as young as I feel.

Reality: After three days, I feel every bit of old. 

Fantasy: Next time it will be different.

Reality: No it won’t. And I wouldn’t change them for the world!

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. ~ Psalms 94:11 (NIV)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. ~ Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)