Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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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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No Steamer Trunk or Man Servants Needed

Before my husband, David, was officially admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for treatment for AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), his doctor said, “You’ll like the rooms. They’re quite nice.”

Even the nurse doing the pre-admission test agreed. “The doctor’s right. You can decorate any way you want, too.”

That’s all I needed to hear before I started packing everything he and I would need to make it a home away from home. Not that I was silly enough to imagine the Ritz Carleton, but I did wonder whether the style would be more Marriott or more Hampton Inn. Didn’t matter; I was sure I could work with either.

When David realized my intentions, he eliminated the second suitcase and scaled down from an extra large to a medium. By the time he was through, we could have used the small one but for his size 15 slippers.

“I’m going to the hospital,” he said, “not on a fancy cruise. I don’t want to walk in with a steamer trunk and two man servants, saying ‘Nurse! Show me to my stateroom!'”

Davd and Man Servants

I’ve gotta say the medical staff’s idea of a “nice room” is a bit different than what I had envisioned. Everything is white, off white, or gray. Not a pop of color anywhere. Unless you count the red blood cells bag hanging on the rolling pole—which I do count, but not as décor.

I played with the idea of asking my friend (who’d made my matching toaster and mixer covers) to make some stylish covers to hide those unattractive, beeping machines attached to the IV poles. Maybe some throw pillows would be nice. Dumb ideas, I know, but these are the things you think about when you don’t know what to do when someone you love is sick. (Okay, these may be the things I think of, not you.)

Pop & FloSince my husband isn’t allowed to receive flowers, I offered to hang his get well cards up around the room to make it more cheery. He was not interested. Instead he keeps them stacked nearby on a bench near his (white) paper towels. When he wasn’t looking, I was able to rearrange his Pop Tart boxes and Flonase package on his dorm fridge to give the space more color and balance.

Instead of me taking care of David, it’s still the other way around. It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable driving into the city and finding the parking garage. He instructed me on the simplest route, and I’ve stuck with it. I pray daily, “Get thee behind me detours!”Detours

Since I get to park free in the Dana-Farber garage, I have to traverse the maze of additions, bridges, and hallways that connect to Brigham and Women’s.  For the first two weeks, I got lost every day.   Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a natural dumb look, which alerts security I’m in need. “May I help you?” Presto! I’d be pointed in the right direction! (I’m gonna use that look more often.)

Finally, it was David (the guy who’d been wheeled in on his back on a gurney) who searched online for maps of both hospitals, overlaid and spliced them together, and drew red arrows from one place to the other. When even that seemed overwhelming for me, he gave me a simplified cheat sheet to help me on my way in and another one for my way out. It’s been three weeks now, and I still cheat.

My sense of direction isn’t my only deficiency. It’s the little things I have to remember now because he isn’t with me. The first night back from Boston, I locked myself out of the house. Fortunately, David had thought in advance to give my neighbors a key. More than once, I’ve gone to bed with the TV on because it was his job to shut it off. And, if I wanted a working radio and CD player on my trips to visit, I had to learn to drive the Venza, since that was “David’s car.”

[Speaking of the Venza, did you know you can’t put a desiel hose in its gas tank? I tried, I really did. Those gas station pump people are pretty smart, I tell ya.]

When I thought I lost the Venza fob (keyless thingamabob), David called valet parking and asked them to search for it. In the light of day, I found the little bugger. It had blended into the black-carpeted floor of the car—along with the black gloves and black earmuffs I thought I’d lost the week before. He also apologized to them for me.

And, as you may have guessed, I needed David to do the Photoshop job of himself in actor Michael York’s ensemble from Murder on the Orient Express, and the one of our friend, Jeremiah Peters, as one of his man servants.

I’m all set now because I have a list which I review before I leave the house:

  • David’s clean laundry Check!
  • David’s snacks Check!
  • Lunch for me Check!
  • Phones – both my old dumb one and my new smart one (which I don’t know how to use yet) Check!
  • Fob Check!
  • Sunglasses Check!
  • Electronic parking pass (which I wave randomly at anything bolted to the concrete wall until the gate goes up) Check!
  • Cheat sheet Check!
  • House keys Check!

Before I headed out yesterday, I mentally reviewed my list. Satisfied I had everything on it, I opened the door and stepped into the garage. Something didn’t feel right. I looked down.

I was in my stocking feet.

On a more serious note, even though the effects of chemo are extremely unpleasant, David is coping well emotionally and spiritually. He says of his time in the hospital, “I liken it to my stint in the Navy. I’ll follow orders and do my time until I get discharged.”

As for me, I prefer not to compare David’s hospital stay with his time in the Navy. Why? They kept him for four years! Can you imagine the damage I’d do in that time?

Car in parking garage

Thanks for your well wishes and prayers! Shalom. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

 


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Time Management, It’s Time to Break Up

KBailey-2015 - SmallMy friend and fellow writer, Kathy Bailey, offered to be my guest blogger this week so I could spend time on what’s important to me right now: Visiting my husband in the hospital. Thank you, Kathy.

Readers, even as you chuckle and enjoy Kathy’s post, you may recognize yourself.  

Time Management, I loved you. I loved being efficient, making more than one thing happen at once, and the elusive “being productive.” I LOVED balancing my checkbook in the doctor’s waiting room and folding laundry during a phone call. I relished using every bit of time, like my ancestors used every bit of scrap fabric in a quilt. Well, actually, my people knitted afghans, but I feel a kinship with quilters anyway. Nothing went to waste.

And that’s how it was with you, Time Management. We were a good fit. But now it’s time to break up.

The most I ever remember doing was four things at once: nursing my baby, supervising my toddler in the tub, drying laundry (the dryer was located in the bathroom) and reading my Bible for devotions. I prided myself on being able to do, well, a lot of things. I had two children under three, no money, and my husband was a full-time church pastor. If I didn’t “do,” it resulted in disaster.

Juglging

Multitasking

I carried this into the rest of my adult life. Why not sew on Girl Scout badges during the district convention, or read a magazine during the movie previews? Didn’t everybody?

Hey, why NOT do paperwork while my mother lay dying in a hospital room? I was there if she needed me.

I was brought up short–but only barely–when a friend from my old neighborhood came to visit me in my new house. I welcomed her, we made tea in the teapot she brought me for a housewarming gift, and then we settled down for a talk. But I couldn’t just “talk.” I brought out some mending, and stitched merrily away until she asked, “Am I keeping you from something?”

That one changed me, at least as far as multitasking with other people went. I realized how rude that must have seemed, and now, when I have company, I have company. But I continued to juggle projects in private, and to justify it.

I wish my wake-up call had been something less mundane and more spiritual. But I didn’t come to my time-management senses until I hung a purple Nine West bag too near the stove and then proceeded to turn on the WRONG burner, thus scorching a pan beyond use and setting fire to the purse. I don’t remember how many things I was doing that day or what they were. I just knew I had to change.

I’m well out of the active-parenting stage, and I don’t have the time demands pulling on me that I had as a young mother. I do a lot, I have a lot done to me, but it can all be done in sequence. I have no little ones or medium-ones tugging on me, nobody’s bleeding, nobody needs me to feed them or wash their faces or hold them till they sleep.

But I’m thinking even young mothers, or dads, don’t need to time-manage as aggressively as I once did. Children need our attention, and I’m prouder now of the time I did spend with my children than the time I spent “accomplishing” things. Especially since I can’t remember what those “important” things were.

Will I still fold laundry while on a long phone call, or address Christmas cards in front of the television? Most likely. And I’ll probably still haul around a “project bag” for waiting rooms. It is as heavy as the weights at the gym, and I don’t have to pay for it.

time-management-tips

Time Management

But more and more, it’s impressed on me that some things are too precious, or fragile, for double-duty. They deserve my full attention. Friends, my five-year-old great-niece, my husband, church. (I once made out a Christmas list during a sermon.) And for safety’s sake, anything with an open flame.

And if I had my parents back, I would just sit and look at them for one last time.  Without “managing” my own time, because there will never be enough of it.

Time management, we had a good run, but it’s over. I don’t, well, have time for you any more.

  • What’s YOUR worst multitasking blunder, and when did you realize you were doing too much?
  • And what’s your best time management tip?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. ~ Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)

MORE ABOUT KATHY: Kathy was a reporter/editor with 35 years, primarily in the nonfiction genre. She’s worked for Seacoast Media Group, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and the former New Hampshire ToDo magazine. She’s interested in everything from food to education to business. During her Seacoast Media Group years, she wrote a weekly personal experience column. She recently covered Londonderry for Nutfield Publishing before moving to their Derry paper, the Nutfield News.

Read more of Kathy’s posts on LinkedIn.

 


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Sorry, the New Year You Ordered Is Out of Stock

113265_maxWe’ve had a shock of sorts over the past few days concerning my husband David’s health. Last Friday we saw an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

DOCTOR, looking at David: “You’re in good health other than the Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”
ME and denial trying to ignore his diagnosis: “It’s January. Why is he talking about a cute Hawaiian Christmas song?”

The doctor followed his pronouncement with a long and detailed explanation of this type of cancer and the treatment to follow, which would require a six-week stay at Brigham and Women’s (Dana-Farber’s in-patient hospital) in Boston.

I tried to listen carefully, but I kept getting hung up on the last thing he said, thereby missing the next. He had questions for my husband too.

DOCTOR: “Do you take any medications?”
DAVID named a single medication then seemed to hesitate.
ME, thinking it was a good time to step in to help. “You take Percocet in the morning too.”
DOCTOR, brow furrowed: “Percocet?”
DAVID, smiling and shaking his head: “No, my wife means Prilosec, but I switched to . . .”
ME, jumping in to correct my faux pas: “Oh, that’s right, it’s Xanax.”
DOCTOR, now eyes wide open: “You’re on Xanax?”
DAVID, patting my hand. “Please ignore my bride. It’s Zantac for heartburn.”

I decided my helping might not help that much.

DOCTOR: “I’m not going to admit you today. I’ll give you five days to prepare things at home. Here’s an order for more blood work for Monday.” Then leading us over to the lab, he said, “Before you leave, I’d like a bone marrow sample.”
DAVID, quivering: “That’s the one thing I’ve been dreading.”
DOCTOR: “Ask the nurse for some Ativan to relax you. But if you take it, you can’t drive home.”
ME, thinking, but not saying: “That means I will have to drive home. How on earth will I find my way OUT of the city when I can’t find my way IN?”

The bad news was he took the Ativan. The good news was he was on Ativan when I drove home.

The next day . . .

01990ME to DAVID, after posting a professorial-looking photo of David on our family Facebook page to let them all know: “What do you think?”zztop
DAVID, after seeing it: “I think it makes me look venerable. Now everyone’s going to feel they have to say nice things about me.”

He countered my picture choice by posting this much less reputable-looking one with the help of Photoshop.

Getting ready . . .

My 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Contact everyone and ask them to pray.
  • Make sure David gets the seafood and Chinese food he’s been craving.
  • Buy him snacks.
  • Buy him new underwear and PJ bottoms—and make sure his tee shirts and fleece tops match.
  • Buy size 15 slippers–once I figure out where to find them.

When I found the flannel PJ bottoms, David thought he would need x-large instead of large. I bought one large and two x-large. I washed the large and they shrank sink inches, making them look like plaid capri pants. When he tried on the x-large, it looked like he could synchronize swim in them with two of his friends.

ME, looking at him in the x-large pants: “You can’t wear those to the hospital. You’ll look like a . . . “

DAVID, pulling the elastic waistline out a good foot: “Like a what? A cancer patient?”

I returned the PJs and we found some that were NOT 100% cotton to avoid shrinkage. We tried four stores before we found slippers big enough.

David’s 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Show Clarice how to access online bank account to pay bills.
  • Show Clarice where the water shut-off and water heater controls are.
  • Show Clarice how to contact Tech Support and Comcast.
  • Show Clarice how to get to Netflix. Cancel Netflix DVDs because she doesn’t know how to open the envelope right or even use the DVD player.
  • Show Clarice where the generator is case of a power failure. Then make her promise not to touch it, but go directly to a hotel.
  • Show Clarice how to drive the Venza we’ve owned for three years.
  • Show Clarice how to use the smart phone we just bought her.
Thinking things through . . .

When discussing how he’d feel once the chemotherapy started, I told David not to hesitate to tell people if he was too tired and needed rest. [During her time as a cancer patient, our friend Kellie used to say, “That Cancer Card can come in pretty handy when I don’t feel like doing something.”]

cancercardME, when I learned David had a long call to make that night: “This might be a good time to play that Cancer Card.”

DAVID, shaking his head: “You never want to open with trump.”

ME, later while thinking about the doctor’s order for more blood work: “They took seven vials of blood from you on Friday. Why do you think the doctor wants you to have more blood work done on Monday?”

DAVID, looking at me over the top of his eyeglasses: “Could it be ’cause you told him I was on Percocet and Xanax?”

See why I want this guy to get well? He not only makes my life better, he makes me laugh while doing it.

The doctor is optimistic David will achieve remission because they caught it early. When the six weeks are over, further treatment will be determined.

Here’s the tee shirt he plans to wear when it gets to that point.

i_came_i_saw_i_want_to_go_home_tshirt-rd73d97489d6840a5b83d8e7674dc5dfd_804gs_324

Latin for “I came, I saw, I want to go home.”

Until then, we’ll keep the faith, keep laughing, and covet your prayers. Thanks.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)


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Chances Are I Didn’t Do It

My Christmas Letter: I’m amazed at all the things I DIDN’T do last year.
Winter:

snowvids1I DIDN’T shovel an ounce of the 105 inches of snow we got in the Northeast. It’s hard to shovel snow when you’re in Cancun. Not that I was in Cancun, mind you. But I do live in a condo community with stand-alone homes and low HOA fees–snow removal included. Close enough for me, by golly.

I DIDN’T finish the portrait of my husband I never started. “Why not?” you ask. The answer is simple. We don’t have a fireplace, so where would I hang it? And then there’s this: I can’t draw, not even a short straw.

I DIDN’T dance the cha-cha-cha. Unless you count the mornings I had too much coffee.

Spring:

I DIDN’T quite finish my Fall cleaning.

Not by bicycle.

This is not my bicycle.

I DIDN’T let the strong crosswinds affect me on a 30-mile cycle trip on the Kancamagus Highway. I DIDN’T have one sore muscle. That’s a lie. I did have a few sore muscles, but that was from sleeping on our old mattress. Never been on the Kancamagus myself. Don’t even own a bicycle, and slow speed is too fast for me.

I DIDN’T spit out the car window–not one time. Mainly, because both times the window was closed. [Note to my friend Kellie Parham. You know I’d never do this, so relax.]

Summer:

I DIDN’T go camping. At all. What a shame. (Again, lying here. No shame at all.)

I DIDN’T have the problem of critters spoiling my organic garden. I chose to pay the whole price at Whole Foods and save myself a whole lot of grief.

Prize HogI DIDN’T win a blue ribbon at the fair for my prize hog, Ham. I DIDN’T even go to the fair. Ham and I lounged by the pool that day.

Fall:

I DIDN’T do a scrapbooking page for each of the things I DIDN’T do.

I DIDN’T smack a single person upside the head. (Of course, the year’s not over yet.)

I DIDN’T win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I felt kinda bad about that for a while. The feeling passed when I realized people might expect me to do exciting stuff with all my money. Like sit and sweat in Cancun. Ride or, worse, hike the Kancamagus. Go camping. Or show off my hog, Ham, at the county fair.

More things I’m thankful I DIDN’T do: 

I DIDN’T give up on getting my first book published–and it happened.

I DIDN’T get sick.

I DIDN’T stop being thankful for my family.

I DIDN’T stop loving and appreciating my husband.

I DIDN’T lose a loved one.

I DIDN’T stop praying.

I DIDN’T stop believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~ Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

CJ 02056


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It Was All Over Once We Measured Our Heads

My husband has teased me for over ten years about the canned message I used to introduce myself to him online.

Yahoo PersonnalsOn 06/23/2005 04:06 pm EDT, I sent: “I like your profile. Tell me more.”

It was the only time I had ever sent anyone a canned message. After seven years of being widowed, I didn’t feel like putting any more effort into this whole finding-a-perfect-mate thing.

On 06/24/2005 06:03 am EDT, he replied with his own canned message: “I’d like to know more about you. Maybe you could take the Personality & Love Style Test?”

A test? Who does this guy think he is? A test? Oh, I don’t think so. My plan was to play hard to get.

On 06/24/2005 05:21 pm EDT, I wrote: “I found the test and downloaded the Flash Player they said I needed to take the test. I’ve downloaded it 6 times, yet no go. Does this mean I flunked? If you have any hints as to how I can access this test, please send them along. Thanks. Clarice.”flash-player

If he wanted me to take his stupid test, I wasn’t going to make it easy on him.

On 06/24/2005 09:56 pm EDT, he wrote: “Not to ask a really dumb question, but after downloading Flash Player, did you install it?  I know, that’s a lot like asking if your TV’s not working because it’s not plugged in, but it’s all I could think of. David.”

Did I install the Flash Player? I downloaded it, wasn’t that good enough? What more did this moustached man from New Hampshire want from me? Well, I wasn’t so desperate that I needed to put up with this nonsense!

On 06/25/2005 08:57 am EDT, I wrote: “You must think my e-IQ is below average, but I’ve tried, really I have. I’ve clicked on the Personality Test and downloaded and installed the Flash 7, oh, probably 15 times by now. I have also re-booted more than once. Anyway, until I figure this out, here are a few facts about me:

  1. I’m much shorter than you.
  2. I don’t have a moustache. I’ve been told I’m attractive (even without the moustache).
    profile square

    [Ralph] David James 2005

  3. The symphony puts me to sleep, but I don’t think that’s a sin.
  4. I want to lose 10 lbs.
  5. I am honest [Correction: Make that 20 lbs.] and dependable and able to adapt to most situations in quick and positive manner. [I’d just put that on my resume and thought it sounded pretty good, so included it.]  Have I scared you away for good? Clarice

There. No harm in sending him a few bits of  information about me. Actually, there were 20 other things on the list, but does that make me a bad person? It’s not like I asked him to write a “What Marriage Means To Me Essay” or anything. (Well, maybe I did, but not until a month later.)

On 06/25/2005 11:20 pm EDT, he wrote: “Ack! I didn’t mean to act like you were e-IQ challenged! I was just admitting my own inability to come up with a solution to your problem. I’ve always thought ladies should be able to walk under my outstretched arm without mussing their hair. So 5′-2+3/8″ is a nice height. Moustaches on ladies have a very limited following, so your lack of one is no disadvantage.”

Ten more paragraphs followed. He gave as much as he got.

Our daily writing continued through July and August—without one phone call or date (despite all the hints I threw at him). We wrote about everyday stuff: faith, family, food, church, music, work. After a while, I decided there would be much less pressure if we took our time getting to know each other by writing. (Besides, he really never gave me a choice.)

In early August, our relationship took an unexpected turn toward intimacy when he told me he had a big head (literally). I’d seen his picture on his profile so I bet him that he was wrong. To settle the argument, such as it was, we both simultaneously measured our heads and reported the results.

It was all over after that. I knew this guy was for me. Who else would use a 25’ Stanley measuring tape to measure his head for a woman who didn’t know the difference between “download” and “install,” one who would try to use a 12″ ruler to measure the circumference of hers?

Big Head CapsThe first time we spoke and met in person was on September 21, 2005. Since I was looking at his head from a good 12+” below him, it seemed a normal size to me. Even so that Christmas I got him a hat from BigHeadCaps.com. It fit.

My husband needs a big head if he’s going to live with me. Where else would he store the knowledge base he uses to help get me through my days? (See this blog for more on that.)

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.'” ~ Genesis 2:18 (KJV)


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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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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)