Monday, November 28, 2016

Ten Miles From Home

A local woman died on Black Friday.

She was young, only 36. I didn’t know her personally, but I had seen her at church. She sang in the choir, did solos sometimes. She had a beautiful voice and joyful countenance. She seemed kind and friendly—facts reiterated in numerous Facebook posts and news websites.

And I thought…I thought what we all think when tragedy strikes. That could have been me, my husband, or my niece who is that age. The circumstances of her death were so commonplace—we’ve all been stuck in a back up on the expressway. The ones that make you nervous—being that last car in the blind spot after an overpass—you know the feeling.  

I don’t travel it often, but I know the section of highway where she died. It’s on the edge of town—that place where you breathe a sigh of relief because you’ve crossed the final out-of-town overpass. You’re back in the familiar; the long trip is nearly finished—ten miles from home.

Think about it. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gaining Control, Losing Connection

So we survived #hurricanematthew. As a native Floridian, I wasn’t particularly scared by the dire predictions of The Weather Channel, after all Jim Cantore never showed up on my doorstep. We live in a rural neighborhood far away from the ocean and a safe distance from any rivers or tributaries. Our three acres are heavily treed, but we took care to plant all the trees a safe distance from the house for storms like this.

My well-balanced philodendron before Matthew

When I was nine months old, Hurricane Dora, a category 1, hit St. Augustine—the one and only direct hit in our area. Our last major tropical event wasn’t a named storm, it’s known as the ’04-05 season—Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne--those are just the ones that hit Florida. There were so many storms that year they ran out of names and started calling them by letters of the alphabet.

If you look on a map, Jacksonville is tucked away in a little curve of the coastline. Hurricanes typically sail past us at a safe distance on their way to wreck major havoc in places like North and South Carolina. So Matthew didn’t scare me. It concerned me—this was definitely coming closer than anything else. There would be wind, possibly stronger than the tropical force winds of 2004, and rain, and, the biggest fear of all—an absolute given with that much wind—power loss. When would the power go out? How long would it be out?

My husband, the Dale in Dalyn, worked for our local electric utility for 32 years. So I know those guys work hard for long hours with very few breaks, but still, it can take days at the very least and historically has taken weeks in some areas to get power fully restored. Downed trees have to be removed, flood waters have to receded (in case you didn’t know, water and electricity DON’T mix). Sometimes the problem isn’t as simple as re-hanging the downed wire. But I digress…

The point is I KNEW we’d be without power. So I scrambled to find flashlights, lanterns, and batteries. Since we’re on a well and septic system, our water source relies on power. We already had plenty of bottled water and we filled a garbage can in the garage with gray water to flush toilets (helpful hint: water leaks out of tubs). We had a generator and gas for long-term use after the storm. The generator wouldn’t run everything, but at least we wouldn’t lose the food in our freezer and we could switch it around to different appliances as needed.

And I was prepared to be in constant communication with my friends and family. I kept my cell phone plugged in so it would be fully charged whenever the power went out. My laptop battery would last for a few hours and then I could switch to my tablet with 4G. I could open the garage door and recharge my cell phone in the car. The TV was on the local news station to monitor for tornadoes and damage in various neighborhoods. We were PREPARED!

Except, we didn’t lose power. The wind blew so hard, I expected the power line outside the window to snap at any moment. The rain fell in sheets, blowing sideways at times. My poor philodendron is permanently lopsided. The whoosh of air down the chimney caused the walls to vibrate and the house creaked and groaned in the strongest gusts. The lights flicked and the power actually went out a few times, you know that off/on, off/on, where you hold your breath wondering if this is it. But it wasn’t. It came back on and held.

Broken and mangled by Matthew

What we lost was communication – no cable, no internet, no 4G. Completely cut off from the news, friends and family. I couldn’t post to Facebook or send a text and I was getting nothing in return. I was fine, but what if a family member was trying to reach me? What if my friend had a problem? I wouldn’t know and they would think I was ignoring them, or worse, worry that I was in trouble. That’s when I realized COMMUNICATION was what I was afraid of losing, not power. I had a plan for how I would continue to power my devices so I could stay in touch, know what others were going through. So what I suffered through the last hours of the storm was a lack of connection.

I had plenty of books to read. I had a lantern that was as good as electric to read them by, if I needed it. But I kept picking up my phone and wondering—is everyone else alright? Was someone trying to reach me? 

All of this, of course, made me think of relationships. When we’re fighting for control, maybe it’s not to retain power, but to gain connection. The funny thing is, in the power struggle we can lose the very connection we seek.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sebastian the Patient

Ahhh…Sebastian, the prince of the Woods’ household. This huge, fluffy socialite first arrived at my sister’s house. He hung around for a few days—even though she didn’t feed him and, since she’s allergic to cats, she called me. Of course, being the sucker I am for furry felines, I brought him home. But I wasn’t going to have cat hair all over my house and clothes, so he would NOT be allowed inside. 

And then we went to Germany for two weeks to see my niece. Hunky husband was tasked with taking care of our new family member—and he did feed him, but royalty demands attention, pomp, circumstance, or at least a little scratch under the chin. Sebastian is very social. Like, unheard of in cats, social. So he went to see my nutty neighbor…and stayed. In spite of the fact that she heaped indignities on him, for instance, she called him Snowball.


First of all, we’re in Florida—we don’t even know what a snowball looks like. Second of all, how common! This cat clearly deserves a far more regal name.

Okay, I resigned myself to having lost this cat to the neighbor.  I still saw him occasionally, but he obviously preferred their yard. I nursed my broken heart and vowed to move on. Then I get the call. “Your cat has been in a fight. His leg is all messed up and you need to take him to the vet.”

Wait a minute. MY cat? The one you alienated from me with your superior yard and catnip?

So I take Sebastian to the vet and bring him in the house temporarily to heal. And then it began. Here’s a couple of pictures of this wonderful cat submitting to Mama’s petting and swaddling. This cat truly exhibits the Fruits of the Spirit.

His leg healed, he could go outside safely again, but…did you see those pictures? Alas, his socialness was his downfall. In the middle of the night he jumped up on Mama’s bed.

She screamed.                            He scratched.                           I scrambled.  

And thus ended a beautiful friendship. He now roams freely between our yard and the neighbors’ until he requires another vet visit.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Christian Mingle - Movie Review

Maybe you’ve seen that commercial and thought “Aww, Christians falling in love.” Being a natural cynic and suspense writer, I automatically go to “Great way to meet an axe murderer.” I mean, these guys know you’re a Christian and if they have any religious background they can probably fake the churchy talk pretty good – at least long enough to suck you in. When the fa├žade starts to slip, it’s too late – you’re in love.
Dead, but in love. That’s how I would have written the movie.
Corbin Bernsen, writer, director and producer of the film, also saw the potential for deceit. Apparently not as suspicious as me, he imagined the comedic possibilities of that deception.
According to his interview with Beliefnet, “I was wanting to explore the notion of how we each have our own path to God and to Christ.” (Read more:) Don’t freak out, from the content of the movie it’s clear he means the way God uses people and circumstances to draw us to Himself.  

Lacey Chabert does a wonderful job as Gwyneth (not Gwennie) Hayden, the faux Christian who thinks reading "Christianity for Dummies" (yes, that's a real book) will help her play the part long enough to land Mr. Right. She also memorizes a list of famous verses – perhaps hiding God’s word in her heart or at least her head, better than most of us.
There are many different types of Christians represented, from the sappy sweet to the judgmental and perhaps the most common, the stealth Christian. Despite this, Gwyneth delves into Scripture, finds a church that meets her style and eventually realizes that she has to make a heart commitment, not just a head decision.  
All in all, this rom-com was good, clean fun. Look for the movie on UP TV February 22 at 5:00 p.m. ET or purchase the DVD through Home Theater Films