Category Archives: Blog

Why the holy water doesn’t land on me.

Chillan, Chile. May 1, 2017. The bishop blesses the Catholics attending the Blessed Sacrament with holy water….

Every year at Easter, we Catholics renew our baptismal vows. Then for the next five weeks, our ministers pass among the congregation, sprinkling us with holy water as a further reminder of our vows.

Most often, the holy water misses me and I’ve often wondered why. I can think of some spiritual possibilities, but I think the answer is a more practical one. I am a middle-of-the-pew Christian. It’s not that the seats on the aisle are all taken. I arrive early to mass and usually have my choice of seats. I choose to sit in the middle.

As I look out at the congregation, it appears as though someone has taken a huge magnet and passed it over the middle of the rows of pews, pushing everyone to the sides like iron filings. The people on the aisles are often  firmly entrenched, and others are forced to wiggle their way around them. There are those who need to get up during the service, commentators, readers, ushers, etc.  Sitting on the aisle is a requirement for them so they don’t have to disturb anyone. For the rest of us, we have a choice.

In my hope to convert others to the joy of sitting in the middle, I would like to offer these advantages:

  •  There is a lot more room in the middle. With everyone crowded along the edges, those of us in the middle can spread out.
  •  There are really nice people in the middle. I’m not saying those on the aisles are not nice, but I feel a kind of kinship with those in the middle.
  •  You don’t have to worry about people climbing over and around you.
  • You get to stay to the very end of the service. There’s no reason to hurry out the door. Life is crazy out there. Why not linger a little longer were there is peace and joy.
  •  You will leave room for those who need to sit on the aisle–those who arrive late, parents with small children, people who have physical limitations.

Those of you who move into the middle can probably think of other advantages. It is my hope that by pointing this out, others may choose to join us. See you in church!

If you have questions or comments, you can email me at contactme@handyhelpersbooks.com

 

Springtime is hikin’ time in Prescott, AZ.

The weather is finally warming up and I’m seeing more people on the trails. Recently, I headed to Thumb Butte to hike a new trail. You are probably aware of the loop trail that goes to the top of Thumb Butte, but did you know there are lots of trails on the north side of the road? Even if you’ve hiked some of these trails before, you might want to check them out again. The Greater Prescott Trail Planning group has added some new trails in that area. With help from the “Over the Hill Gang,” Prescott National Forest improved some of the social trails, making them full-fledged hiking and biking trails. One of those is the Piglet (trail 328). That was the trail I was heading for that day.

I wasn’t sure how the trail got its name until a family of javalina ran across the road in front of my car. I decided the trail was named for those pig-like animals that inhabit the area.

Once you reach the Thumb Butte picnic area and pay the $5 fee (It’s free on Wednesday), park near the host campsite. To reach trail 328, you will need to begin on 315. The trailhead is just to the left of the host. From 315, you will go on trail 317 for a short distance before reaching a gate that goes to some houses. Turn left at the gate, and you will be on trail 328. You will be treated to amazing views of the San Francisco Peaks, and Granite Mountain, as well as Little Granite Mountain.

Trail 328 ends at the 316. Go left onto 316 and it will return you to the parking lot. If you would like a longer hike, turn right on 316. There are plenty of pines and a little creek to cross. When you reach the 317, turn left to go back to the parking lot. Enjoy the views of Thumb Butte along the way.

 

Do you want to be right OR do you want to be happy?

Last week, I was sure that my daughter, Kirstin, told me a lie.  What she told me seemed very unlikely and I chewed her out for telling me a story. It wasn’t until several days later that I found out what she told me was not a lie at all.

Having to apologize is a very humbling experience. But Kirstin’s attitude through the whole thing made it even more humbling. When I called her a liar, she didn’t argue with me. She didn’t defend what she did or make excuses. In fact, she apologized. When it was my turn to say I was sorry, she was gracious and immediately forgiving. I spent some time thinking about this and it occurred to me that Kirstin was more concerned about my feelings than she was about being right.

I have often heard Dr. Phil ask a guest, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Of course, everyone says they want to be happy, but they continue defending what they have been doing. “How is that working for you?” is the next question Dr. Phil asks. And of course they admit that it isn’t working.

This makes me wonder why most of us seem to keep doing what we have always done and getting the results we always get, even when it isn’t working. I think I’m going to take a lesson from Kirstin and not worry so much about being right. Instead, I choose to be happy.

I’m hooked on the television series The Good Doctor. Dr. Shaun Murphy is a surgeon who has autism. In nearly every episode his “out of the box” thinking solves a problem that no one else can. Now there is a new chief surgeon who sees Dr. Murphy’s weaknesses more than his strengths and moved him from surgery to work in pathology. He is an excellent pathologist, but he wants to be a surgeon. Reluctantly, he goes to his new position and tries to make the best of it, but he can’t let go of the need to be a surgeon.

The previews for this week’s episode show the surgeons calling for Dr. Murphy to help with a problem in the operating room. I’m excited to see if the chief surgeon will re-evaluate his position and recognize Dr. Murphy’s special gifts.  Will he admit that he was wrong?

We hear a lot of talk about diversity, tolerance and acceptance, but often we fall short when it comes to putting those beliefs into action. We have a lot to learn from those among us who see the world just a little differently.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night

Apparently, the mail carrier’s creed does not apply if you live on a snow-packed dirt road. After receiving more that two feet of snow in a day and a half, our mail delivery was suspended for a few days. Since I didn’t drive on that road myself, I totally understand.

I am on a contract route which means my carrier does not officially work for the post office. She does a fantastic job and often goes out of her way delivering packages that are too big for the mailbox. I have total admiration for her because I am well aware of the crummy roads she has to drive on every day.

The citizens of Bluesky have a wonderful mail carrier named George. This is his encounter with Beth Anne.

Beth Anne pulled back the drapes in the front window and looked out at the porch. It was half past three o’clock and their mailman, George, would be there at any moment. Getting the mail was Beth Anne’s job and she loved it. George let her walk with him to the next few houses. Sometimes he had a funny story to tell her about things that happened on his mail route.

“Hey, there, young lady,” George called out as Beth Anne came through the front door. “Here’s your mail today.”

Beth Anne placed the mail on the table just inside the door and joined George as he pushed his cart down the driveway to the sidewalk. Beth Anne had to quicken her steps to keep pace with George. Every now and then, she would skip along to catch up. She chattered away happily as they walked. “When school starts I’m going to be in fifth grade. I’m going to be in reg’lar class, not in special class. Maybe I’ll be with some of my friends. I do good in school. I’ll be happy when school starts.”

“That’s great, honey,” George said as he walked up to the next house on his route. Beth Anne took the opportunity to rest and catch her breath.

“What’s that?” she asked as George returned to his cart. Beth Anne was pointing at a cardboard heart with an arrow and scribbly writing on it.

“That’s a card Joey gave me to deliver to Melissa,” George said with a grin. “He told me she’s his girlfriend.”

“I know,” Beth Anne giggled. “Melissa is on our Special Olympics swim team. Joey tries to whistle at her, but he can’t really do it right. It sounds like this.” Beth Anne put her lips together and blew air through them, making a loud farting sound.

“We used to call that a Bronx cheer,” George laughed. “I bet it didn’t get the results Joey hoped for.”

“Melissa didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to hurt Joey’s feelings.”

From: The Handy Helpers, Not a Happy Camper.

AMBUSHED

This past week was definitely the most difficult since the loss of my husband last December. When I tried to figure out what happened, I identified several possible triggers that just seemed to pile up on me. At the end of the week, I sought help from the chaplain who had been on Craig’s hospice team. Fortunately, he was able to spend some time talking with me and introduced me to someone who is a year ahead of me in the grieving process.

My new friend told me that what I experienced is called an ambush, and she assured me there will be more of them to come. While it was a painful week, it is comforting to know that it is a natural part of the grieving process.

I decided to do a little research to see what else I don’t know about what I am going through. An article I found on the AARP website, written by Ruth Davis Konigsberg debunked the idea that there are stages of grief. According to her research, those who are grieving experience more of a fluctuation. A day of sadness or anxiety can be followed by a day of joy and lightheartedness. This fits more with what I have experienced. Fortunately, there have been far more happy days than sad ones. And I can expect the sad ones to come less frequently as time passes.

Another encouraging finding in her study was that grief doesn’t last forever. The loss will always be there and so will the memories, but the acute grief will eventually disappear. She also found that humor has a healing affect on those who grieve. Being able to recall happy times and to smile when describing the one we’ve lost are healthy ways to deal with our grief.

Reading this article did help me uncover ways to redirect my thinking and focus on my emotions as I navigate this new journey I am on. I am sharing it with the hope that it will be helpful to others traveling this same path.

Book Five–Finished at last!

ID 72032850 © Nelosa | Dreamstime.com

It has taken longer than I expected, but this week I will be sending The Handy Helpers, No Burping! No Slurping! to my publisher.

In Book Five, Laura is challenged by her teacher to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Ghandi) With the help of Beth Anne, she attempts to make friends with the new cafeteria worker who seems to be stressed and on edge in her new job. While the girls are successful in getting Mrs. Meniere to lighten up, the results of their efforts go far beyond what they ever expected.

Here are a few of the other things that happen in Book Five:

  • The Handy Helpers start fifth grade. Unfortunately, they are slit up, but they manage.
  • Rachel goes to an actual school for the first time. Of course Trisha is there to help her figure it out.
  • Daniel struggles with Tourette’s as he begins fourth grade. But this becomes easier when he makes new friends.
  • Jeremiah continues his relationship with Melody now that they are both seniors in high school.
  • Laura experiences frustration over being a middle child who is taken for granted. Amber is there to help her through it.
  • Laura’s little sisters, Molly and Taylor, have an adventure involving stolen kittens.
  • Spike reluctantly makes a new friend when Wylie Tanner moves to Bluesky.
  • The Handy Helpers become official.
  • Beth Anne finds out reg’lar class can be a challenge–that is until she meeting Eldon.
  • The book ends with a big event you won’t want to miss.

My readers who are fans of the Cole children will be very happy as their relationship with Gus continues to grow.  As you can see, a lot happens in Book Five.  I’ll let you know as soon as it is available.

 

 

 

 

. . . And so life goes on.

For the past five years my life has been filled with caring for my husband Craig who had dementia. On December 12, 2018, he departed this life. His passing was a beautiful experience for me. He was able to remain at home as I prayed he would.  Although people from hospice came every day, Craig and I had lots of time together. I will always cherish those special moments.

As you can imagine, this has left a huge hole in my life. As I have thought about what I want to do now, I came to realize that there are two dichotomous paths I could take–neither of which would be the way to go. I could simply do nothing. After all, I’ve earned a rest. For five years, I have put my life on hold. The other path would be to try to do everything. Every day I see more opportunities and possibilities. But I realize I must be careful not to take on too much as a way to fill the void. And so I am proceeding with caution and prayer, seeking to discover what I am really being called to do.

One thing I know for sure, I will keep writing the Handy Helpers books. I finished book five in November, but the manuscript is still in my computer. Now I’m ready to publish it and get to work on book six. I am toying with the idea of writing a book about my experiences as a caregiver. I plan to do a little research to see if the world really needs another book on that subject. I’ll let you know what I find out.

I am also recommitting myself to writing this blog. I have sadly neglected it over the past year. It is my intention to have a new post each week.

Yesterday, I wore a pair of boots I hadn’t worn for a while.  The laces of the left boot had been tied into a dozen tiny knots. Stuffed in the toe I found one of Craig’s Megablocks.  As I struggled to untie the knots, it occurred to me that I would never again find this shoe in that condition. For a moment I considered leaving the knots and wearing something else. Then I remembered that every day I am surrounded by hundreds of reminders of Craig.  He is still with me in so many ways and he always will be.

Hiking Spree 2018

The Highlands Center for Natural History began offering the Hiking Spree in 2008. In recognition for ten years of hiking, this year’s spree includes ten hikes from previous years and two new hikes. Maps for all eleven hiking sprees are available on the Highlands Center website.

One of the new hikes is in an area called Storm Ranch.  Like the Constellation Trail, Storm Ranch is a large loop trail with smaller loops within it. It is accessed from the Peavine Trail, which you may already be familiar with. The parking lot for the Peavine Trail is off of Prescott Lakes Parkway on Sundog Ranch Road. Once you reach the Peavine Trailhead, hike north for about two miles to Boulder Creek. If you have a bike, you can ride it to the Storm Ranch area and lock it in the bike rack. The Boulder Creek Trail will be on your right (not the lake side of the trail).

Boulder Creek is usually dry, but two days before my hike we received quite a bit of rain from Huricane Rosa. It was delightful to hike along a gurgling stream—a rare experience in Arizona.

The Hiking Spree hike included a half-mile of the Boulder Creek Trail and three-fourths of a mile through a section named Easter Island because the rock formations look like statues.  I decided to explore some of the additional trails. So I continued through Dino Canyon to the Bedrock City Trail. I never saw any dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean they were never there.

As I was running out of time, I took the Pebbles Trail as a shortcut back. (Further up was BamBam Trail, another shortcut.) This led me to Quartz Canyon. I was at a loss to understand how it got that name as all I was seeing was granite. Then I noticed a ribbon of quartz running through the granite and decided that was what the trail was named for. Boy! was I wrong! Suddenly I found myself in an area full of quartz–large and small.  From there, I reached the Easter Island Trail that would take me back to the Peavine.

I hope to go back again and try some of the other trails I didn’t get to on this hike, and new ones as they are completed. By the time I finished my hike, I had covered about six miles. It took me a while to recover from the strenuous hike, but it took me even longer to get the Flinstones theme song out of my head.

Becoming Unoffendable

Recently, I heard someone on the radio talking about being unoffendable. I hadn’t considered what it means to be unoffendable, but it gave me something to think about. Two incidents I was involved in recently made me think that becoming unoffendable was worth pursuing.

The first incident occurred while I was driving on the highway. I found myself in the fast lane, sandwiched between a driver who was contented to go the speed limit and one who wanted to go much faster–making this known to me by riding close to my bumper. We continued our little caravan as we passed a highway patrolman. Since we were going an appropriate speed, I was sure that the driver behind me was spared a ticket. He must not have seen it that way, because when I pulled over into the right lane, he felt the necessity to honk as he passed me. “Why are you honking at me?” I shouted, even knowing he couldn’t hear me. Indignation boiled up in me as I considered the unfairness of it all.

The second incident occurred in church of all places. At the beginning of mass, I got a tickle in my throat and I coughed. The person on my left apparently used that data to diagnose me with a cold. When it was time for the sign of peace, she refused to shake my hand. This would have been fine with me, but she must have felt driven to tell me why. That too was okay until she decided to tell me a second time in case I misunderstood her the first time. Now I was offended. Perhaps, neither of us should have gone to communion–certainly I shouldn’t have. But, alas, we both did. When I came back to the pew, I moved down as far away from her as possible–a childish act for sure.

In light of what we see on the news, we all need to work on becoming unoffendable. I recently saw a woman who was on her way to prison because a road-rage incident had led her to shoot and kill the person she was upset with. She was filled with remorse and struggled to understand how she could have gotten so out of hand. Her victim’s family was outraged and calling for more than a prison sentence.

This situation was the extreme, but we all find ourselves in circumstances that could potentially be dangerous, especially when we are driving. Being unoffendable is not about being weak, or being a victim. It is about taking the high ground–having self-restraint and not letting someone else’s behavior determine ours. Being offended is allowing our egos to rule the day. To be unoffendable, we must keep our feelings in check in order to make decisions we will not regret later.

As for me, I plan to work toward becoming unoffendable in minor incidents like the two I related here.  In that way, hopefully I will have the skills to remain calm under extreme circumstances should I ever have to face them.

 

A fitting memorial to the nineteen who died.

I had been wanting to hike the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Trail and finally, in April, I was able to go there with my granddaughter, Brenna. We didn’t get an early start, and it was a fairly warm day, So I had only planned to hike to the memorial which would be five miles round trip. To reach the trailhead, we drove through Yarnell and started down the windy road toward Congress. The parking lot is about halfway down. It is small, but we were fortunate enough to get the last parking space. There is a shuttle that runs 7 days a week from the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in Congress. That is a good alternative if the parking lot is full.

The first two miles of the hike are pretty rugged and mostly up hill. Fortunately, along the way there are nineteen plaques inserted into large boulders. These provided plenty of opportunities to stop and rest while reading the plaques.

Once we reached the summit, we were treated to a 360 degree view that was nothing less than spectacular.

Hiking down the back side toward the memorial, below us we could see the actual site where they died. That was when I began to amend my plans. I was pretty certain that once I reached the memorial, I would not be able to turn around without finishing the hike to the bottom.

The canyon where the hot shots were trapped was now fully visible and we could see its proximity to homes in the small valley.

The memorial was a nice place to rest and have a snack. There were covered picnic tables.  The tribute wall was filled with tokens of appreciation left by previous hikers.

I was wishing that I had something to leave there, but alas I didn’t. If I ever have the opportunity again, I will certainly plan to leave a memento somewhere along the trail.

After a short rest, we began the mile hike down to the actual site. There we found the area surrounded by nineteen gabion baskets  connected by chains to signify the unity of the hotshot team. Inside the circle were crosses where each man fell. It is impossible to stand there and not feel the terrific loss that occurred, especially after reading the nineteen plaques along the way.

Since I didn’t bring anything to leave behind, I looked around for something I could place there. I found a rock that I thought looked like a thumbs up. I placed it on a large rock that was between two gabion baskets to say, “Job well done.”