Archive for September, 2014

What It Takes to Be a Man

Posted: September 30, 2014 in World On The Edge

Rudyard Kipling


By Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Falling Off the Edge?

Posted: September 29, 2014 in World On The Edge

YUlrOExqNGJUT0kx_o_man-falls-off-the-edge-of-grand-canyon-caught-on-videoAre you in the midst of a difficult time in your life? We all have those times, and some of us, it seems, have more difficulties than others. How do we cope with events that could literally bring us to the edge of total despair–those times when we may feel completely alone in our suffering?

One important thing to remember is that everything on Earth is temporary. A change–though maybe not the change we expect or pray for–will eventually come.

Artists, poets, and writers, being sensitive persons, are particularly good at empathizing with and depicting hard times and struggle. Additionally for the artist, the hard times and struggles produce an automatic, kindred audience because any one on Earth can identify with difficulty. So this is why an author keeps putting up obstacles for his/her characters–and then a change that produces a climatic ending–more often than not, an ending that is satisfactory to the reader.

Change is as important in life as in literature. In essence, we’re writing our own story by the things we do, or don’t do, during the days, months, and the many–or few–years of our lives. We have been given free will to be who want to be. So, if we’re unhappy with ourselves, or our lives, change is possible. It may even be needed. But we can always make that day of change the first day of the rest of our lives!

For life events, such as disabilities of various kinds, that we cannot outwardly change, we may need to change interiorly in order to cope, and then ultimately come from despair to Joy. An offering of our suffering in Love, just as Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross, can cause that interior change. Here it is in poetry:

“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

–from “Christmas Bells,”  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow wrote ‘Christmas Bells’ on Christmas Day, 1864, after the untimely death of his daughter.

We Need Manly Men

Posted: September 26, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001145812666I may be old-fashioned, but I like real men. I’m the wife of a man who’s glad to be a man. I’m the product of a family led by strong men who’d never imagine having their fingernails painted, not even by the little girl they adored. I’m the offspring of men who provided for their families, who listened to the problems of a wife and children, and then tried to solve them, not run from them. I’m the child, grandchild, great grandchild, great-great grandchild, and on and on, of men who served their country with courage, bravery, and the spilling of their blood.

Strength, reliability, and action, are all still core parts of what makes a man, a real man.

Today, I ask, “Where are men like these?”

I think many in our feminine society have emasculated them. I think many of our young boys are in danger of the same. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. They are not alike, except that both are children of God. Especially today, we need strong men, strong fathers. We need strong women and mothers. We do not need a world in which one cannot be differentiated from the other.

Remember that, for better or worse, the strongest influence on a boy is his father. For a girl, it’s her mother.

Again, I may be old-fashioned, but I don’t think it’s in the nature of a woman to desire a womanly man. Or in the nature of a man to desire a manly woman. That is a bill of goods sold to us–and to our children when they’re too young to decipher it–through advertising, movies, TV, sit-coms, and politics. And it’s a dangerous bill of goods because it’s confusing to a child. So, I say, “Quit messing with their minds!” It’s no wonder we have so many children on prescribed drugs, or any sort of drug that promises them a false clarity.

It’s evident that society needs to relax. Not everything needs changing, or equalized to the extent of confusion. More important, not everything CAN be changed, or equalized. Some things are as they are. To paraphrase Shakespeare: A rose by any other name is still a rose.

file1401253770839Most of us have a dream; something we aspire to do, or be. Maybe we’ve already accomplished our dream, or maybe we’re still in the process. What does it take to make a dream become a reality?

First and foremost, an accomplished dream requires a committment–we have to want it badly enough to stay loyal to it. This can be very inconvenient, and we may be criticized, or even ridiculed. I think of Christopher Columbus who for years pushed for someone to finance his idea of a western route from Europe to a “new world.” People thought him crazy; yet he persisted until the King and Queen of Spain agreed. And you know what happened next.

Then comes the trying, because without hard work the dream probably won’t see daylight. Without hard work, a person is dealing only with a ‘wish.’ “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” is an English language proverb and nursery rhyme, originating in the 16th century, used to suggest that it is useless to wish and that better results will be achieved through action. Hard work is that action. We have to be very good at whatever our dream requires.

And then, there’s confidence. A person committed, and willing to work hard, must have confidence in himself. Confidence is an inner quality of the mind and requires that we face our fears. Many of us face our fears by trusting in God.

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

“Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” —Genesis 15:1 –

Finally, we should be enthusiastic about our dream. Sometimes that means asking someone for a chance. We must be enthusiastic enough to say: “Put me in the game. Let me show you what I can do!”

How Do You Get to the Truth??

Posted: September 24, 2014 in World On The Edge

Faith and reasonGod comes to each of us in a uniquely personal way, geared to who we are, geared to the way He created us.  Do you know someone who has only a elementary view of God, a person who may have a “simple” faith, but a faith that is truly genuine? On the other hand, do you know someone whose faith comes from an intellectual consideration of God?

We don’t have to be an intellectual, don’t have to be the smartest person around, to be one of the most virtuous people around. But we can also be virtuous, and intellectually savy, too. Neither cancels out the other. Faith and Reason are in harmony with one another.

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2). Encyclical Letter, Fides Et Ratio, Pope John Paul II

What wonderful words–by knowing and loving God, we come to know the truth about ourselves. He sees us as we are–His children. And He loves us whether we’re smart, or not so smart; whether we’re beautiful, or not so beautiful, whether we’re successful, or not so successful. He sees the light within us because He put it there. He knows its capability. He knows us. Simple Faith or Complicated Faith, we are His.

people pleasersI admit that I am a People Pleaser. And I am happy being so. But today, People Pleasers get a bad rap, and a lot of negative comments. We are said to be:

Afraid of being rejected or abandoned
Preoccupied about what others think and feel
Fearful of saying no, setting limits, or seeming “mean”
Hungry for the approval of others
Stuck in relationships where we give more than we get
Overworked because of an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility
Neglectful of our own needs
Exhausted, overbooked, and burned out trying to take care of others

BUT WAIT…What is wrong with any of those so-called negative attributes?

JUST LOOK at the opposite of any one of the above:

Not loving oneself enough to care about rejection or abandonment
Not caring what others think or feel
Saying no to another’s request, no personal self-limits, meanness
Not being appreciative and thankful for other’s opinions that may help us grow
Not giving one’s all in a relationship
Having no personal responsibility, and instead blaming others
Thinking only of one’s self
Not willing to go through any struggle to care for others
In other words: It’s all about ME. Not about YOU.

Anita E. Kelley, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, has this to say about children who grow up to be People Pleasers. “Who wouldn’t encourage their kids to be people pleasers? And who wouldn’t want to be around such persons? After all, people pleasers pay their fair share of expenses, do their fair share of work, and have in general a high regard for other people. Yet far from being weak, they are the very ones who will stick up for you when you really need it.”

If we can’t please people, we can’t please God who lives in each one of us. If we do not remain loyal to the goodness in others, we will not remain loyal to God.

The free will we have been given allows us to make our own decisions during our personal life journey. To please… or not to please. And pleasing is often a struggle. We do not want to be someone’s doormat, but we want to help. If asked, we want help another steer the vessel of himself toward goodness–just as we expect another to assist us in that way. Because we are all God’s vessels, brothers and sisters in the same human race.

Here’s a powerful prayer for the ability and insight into pleasing our Lord and our fellow man.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.—Psalm 19:14

The following video is not by members of my immediate family, but nevertheless by members of our human family. And it is a wonderful example of young girls attempting to please, to lighten the burden of someone they love.

Close But No Cigar?

Posted: September 22, 2014 in World On The Edge

Golf ball at edge of holeWhen I was a student at Spring Hill College in Mobile Alabama, I was taught by many wonderful Jesuits. One that I will always remember was Father Alfred Lambeau, who taught French.

He was small and wiry, had a glass eye, and a unique, sometimes biting, sense of humor. His method of grading papers began at the bottom with a failing grade, “Egad!” Next up from that was “Close But No Cigar” and upwards again was “So-So,” and finally, “Lollipop!”

“Close But No Cigar” was my favorite. It meant that I was at least on the right track, and with a little more effort I might finally get to “Lollipop!”

To put it into context for this blog–Life is surely like Father Lambeau’s grading system, isn’t it? Life is hard, but something–some spark–within us keeps us going, and trying, and sometimes succeeding.

What is that spark?

In one word–HOPE.

Hope makes us more human than anything else. It gives us wings, so to speak. It draws us closer to who we are created to be. This is not to say we will achieve material success because we’re hopeful, but we will achieve a peace and because of that peace, happiness, even joy.

Without hope, we’re spiritually dead. Hopelessness is the cause of an enormous amount of personal misery, and our hopelessness affects others. How many criminals act from a sense of hopelessness? Hopelessness often makes us feel alone and alienated from others. We may feel powerless, or even have a sense of doom.

So the term, “Close But No Cigar” used by Father Lambeau actually was a challenge for most of us. Keep going. Keep trying. And you’ll get there.

How would any of us get through difficult times without that hope–the language of God, eternally calling to us?


Everyone agrees that our lives go through phases, something like the moon.  For a period of 27 days, the moon progresses through certain stages or phases. Each phase has its own set of unique viewing characteristics, so that we on Earth see each  being different from another. And then on some certain night, there is no moon at all—until it returns.

We have phases in our lives too–the last phase is an event that no one wants to talk about–the moment of death.

Who will we be at the moment of our death?  Will we be our bank accounts, our Mercedes, our Country Club memberships, or our jobs?  I think not.  At the moment of death these things—things we may have strived for all our lives— will not be important at all. The only important thing will be the new phase of our life—our  eternity, how and with whom we’re about to spend it.

Here’s the first page of “Moon Dance: A Love Story,” the eighth story in my collection, Birds of a Feather. And here is a multiple choice questions for consideration after reading it. Click on the book cover to order the book.

What is the promise of return that Anna speaks of in the story?
1. a return to her youth
2. that the nurse will come back to give her a pain pill
3. God’s promise to his people.: Eternal life

Moon Dance: A Love Story

Every night, when she makes her rounds, she finds us watching the Georgia moon. We lay together in a single bed to catch the first inkling of its light and nightly mark its swell from miniscule to magnificent. We tell her of its essence, that it is something much bigger and brighter than itself. She gives us a condescending, “Uh huh, Shugah;” then leans over to tuck the white sheet around our thighs, and brush a dark hand across our foreheads. She smells of honey.

In the darkness, we point out to her the way the moon takes center stage to a sparkle of dancing stars, how it soon becomes distorted, fades and passes, leaving only a promise of return. We tell her that return is certain—our covenant between nothing and everything, between life and death. But she only wrinkles her sweet, black face and smiles, a tall silhouette against the silver light from the window.

“Night, night, Miz Anna,” she says.

I expect her to give us a kiss goodnight, but instead she gives us a pill for pain. On her way out, she does not close the window. She does not shut our door. We do not allow her to do that, because we will not be fastened here forever.

The artificial light from the hall draws a triangular shape on the linoleum, pierces the soft splash of moonlight that spreads downward from the foot of our bed. The illumination of the hall is soon extinguished by a human hand, but we lie in a radiance the human hand does not control. In the night, we speak of the covenant, the promise in death. I see its purpose. Death is passage. Death is close.

One hundred and six years old, both of us, we’ve held many who passed before us, held them in our arms as they took a last breath—parents, children, grandchildren, others we loved. I tell Will, my beloved husband, that God’s desires are greater than our own. He accepts the truth in that. Then we speak of our daughter, our first child.


There are some people who know your name, but  act as if they don’t know it, then purposely don’t use it when they speak to you. Sort of a snub, I guess. Because a name is important. It’s how we identity ourselves as individual human beings.

Here’s the first page of “Jimmy’s Cat,” the seventh story in my collection, Birds of a Feather.

One of my reviewers says he, “loves the heck out of Jimmy’s Cat.” But hey, so does Jimmy–and that might be a problem to ‘Jimmy’s wife.’

Which questions will be answered in this story?

. How do you keep a cat out of a heat fight?
. Does Jimmy’s Cat need to know its name?
. Will a redneck do ‘God-knows what’ to Jimmy’s Grandmamma?
. Everyone has an identity

Click on the cover to order the book and find out.


Jimmy’s cat wasn’t born one-eyed. I heard he lost it one night in a heat fight with a big, orange-striped tom when Jimmy was twelve years old. Jimmy’s twenty-seven, now, and the vet who sewed up the cat’s eye, sewed it so tight it looks like it was never meant to see in the first place.
Jimmy’s cat didn’t have a real name. Everybody just called it Jimmy’s Cat. Jimmy’s mama called it Jimmy’s Cat. Jimmy’s grandmamma called it Jimmy’s Cat. And Jimmy’s wife, when he got married, called it Jimmy’s Cat, too.

Jimmy’s mama and grandmamma never cared too much for Jimmy’s Cat. Jimmy’s mama didn’t like when it would creep out of Jimmy’s bed in the mornings and into the kitchen, rubbing itself up against her leg while she was pouring the beat eggs into the frying pan. She’d get a scrunched-up look on her face whenever it would butt the blind side of its head to her calf like it was trying to push her out. The little, brown mole on the side of her cheek would quiver whenever Jimmy’s cat did that. And when it slid around her ankle, like a fuzzy rope trying to snag her, she’d clinch her front teeth, and curl up her lips, and just about have a hissy fit. Because Jimmy’s mama didn’t allow herself to be tied to nobody, at least nobody but Jimmy. So, if Jimmy wasn’t in the kitchen, she’d take the broom to Jimmy’s Cat and swat it outside.

Jimmy’s grandmamma didn’t find Jimmy’s Cat tolerable, either, because it liked to sleep between the tire and the fender of her car—only her car, nobody else’s— not even Jimmy’s wife’s old jalopy. So Jimmy’s grandmamma always checked under the fender before she got in to drive it. Then she checked the inside of the car, because there was no doubt some redneck maniac might be hiding in the back seat waiting to do Godknows-what to her. Finally, she’d check the tires, because one time she had a flat one smack dab in the middle of the Interstate, and had to catch a ride to the nearest filling station with a sweaty, fat man who almost talked her ear off. She said she never in her life wanted to go through an ordeal like that again, so she made it a habit to inspect the car, inside and out, before each errand and departure. And sometimes she had to scoot off Jimmy’s Cat, curled up on top of the right front wheel under the fender where nobody could have seen it, not even somebody with good eyes.

Trying to Fix Things?

Posted: September 16, 2014 in World On The Edge


I know there of many of you in this nearly miraculous online window of acquaintance who could show me a thing or two about the goodness in your own lives. But bear with me as I continue to put out what I believe to be true–that God is madly in love with each of us, and that love is a big thing. Big enough to change our lives. And I can’t speak for you, but I need that truth.

When something  goes wrong in my life, how do I try to fix it?

First, do I even try to fix it?

Or do I  go after the person who caused the problem with a hammer in my hand?

This  story in Birds of a Feather is about an artist who experiences something going very wrong in her life, and how she tries to fix it.

Click on the cover to order the book.


Late at night after the children are in bed and she’s certain Aaron is sleeping, Amelia takes her flashlight and climbs the back stairs into the attic of the century-old house, to paint. She climbs the wooden steps carefully, barely putting any weight at all on the top step, the one that creaks. In the corner of the attic where the support beam to the rafters makes a perfect right angle with the floor, is a square table with small brass lamp. When she pulls the lamp switch, the table and everything on it– canvas, tubes of oil paint, dry brushes in a glass jar—all come to light in a nearly perfect sphere. She clicks off the flashlight then. A lot of light is neither necessary nor wanted.

Tonight she is working on a portrait of Aaron, an eight-by-ten canvas, as all of them are. Portraits of the children are finished, for now anyway; she will come back to them later when she finds a flaw, or when some new characteristic needs to be added. The children’s faces, four of them, hang from nails hammered into the pine walls like pictures in a beloved, private gallery. Below, stacked against the wall, are more canvases of each of the children from years past, babyhood onward. But this is the first time she’s painted Aaron. Aaron’s unfinished face sits on an easel, looking back at her through deep brown eyes. The eyes are still flat. No highlights yet. Amelia hasn’t determined whether the light in his eyes will come from the right, or the left.

She pours varnish into a small metal cup, and turpentine into the glass jar, then swishes the brushes around to be sure they are clean, wiping each of them with a stained cotton cloth, pouring out the old, dirtied turpentine, and refilling the jar with the new. On a glass plate, she squeezes out the oil paint, beginning with cadmium yellow light and titanium white. Highlights for Aaron’s eyes. The light will come from the right, she thinks, wondering why she hesitated last night when she began his portrait; the light in each of her portraits always comes from the right, from the only natural light possible in the attic–through one round window that looks like the porthole of a ship. Through that window, occasional moonbeams compete with the lamp, and if the beams are bright enough, as they sometimes are, Amelia turns off the lamp, and paints by moonlight.

Tonight there is no moon, so the lamp stays on. She paints for an hour or so, until Aaron’s face is just like she wants it, charged with an expression of love and faithfulness accented by the meticulous highlights in his eyes. Then she takes the canvas and hangs it on a waiting nail, beside the portrait of their last child, Aaron Junior.