Dancing With Willard

I was sitting in my office looking around trying to decide what I’d talk about in my blog this month when my eyes rested on a letter on the wall from Mr. Charles A. Whitehurst, Vice President and General Manager of WSFA, a local TV station in Montgomery, AL. It was dated September 21, 1983 and it made me smile.

At that time, I owned my own G-rated “bellygram” service in which I visited businesses, hospitals, restaurants, etc. to help people celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, get-wells, etc. Instead of people sending flowers to someone they admired, they sent me. During my lively ten minute dance routine I presented the guest of honor with a personalized banner announcing the special occasion and I crowned them with my veil and tambourine. My job was really fun and I enjoyed it immensely.

When Channel Twelve called me they said they realized I was a belly dancer, but did I think I could do a Carmen Miranda routine instead of a belly dance? They explained that Willard Scott was coming to Montgomery for a charity event and there would be a huge welcoming for him at the airport when he arrived. High school bands would play, Mayor Folmar would present the Keys to the City, that sort of thing. Just days before, Willard had accepted a challenge to dress up as Carmen Miranda on his weather spot on NBC’s The Today Show to raise money for charity.  His appearance caused a huge sensation all over the U.S. In fact, Al Roker later said, “If the Internet had existed the day Willard Scott dressed up as Carmen Miranda, he would have broken the Internet.”

Channel Twelve’s proposal sounded so intriguing, I accepted right away. The problem was, I needed a costume and music and I had a day and a half to pull that all together. Yikes! Furthermore, I didn’t have time to go to the library for research. I had to rely on my memory of Carmen Miranda, the famous Portuguese-Brazilian singer, dancer, actress and film star who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. I scrambled together some bright, colorful fabric from my costume supply and started making ruffles like crazy. Papier-mâché fruit I had crafted years before became incorporated into a headdress to top off the costume. Then I rummaged through my varied music selection, and stayed up all night getting it all ready for Willard.

I called my next door neighbor, Chi, who heartily agreed to come with me to the airport. I was supposed to be hidden until Mr. Scott arrived and when he made his appearance in the terminal where everyone was congregated, I needed her to punch the play button on my boombox to start my Carmen Miranda music.  I’d take it from there.

Little did I know how cooperative Willard would be! When the Latin music began and I made my surprise appearance, he came right over and started dancing with me alternating hand to elbow, hand to elbow with the beat, and he even bumped my hip so hard, I thought I was going to sail into the crowd! My nervousness disappeared when I saw him having so much fun. His joy was infectious and the crowd went wild. When the news came on TV that night, Chi and I watched it and relived the whole experience, all over again.

The letter I received from Mr. Charles Whitehurst, which hangs on my office wall, was one of thanks for my participation in making what Willard declared, “a most warm and wild greeting,” with a request he be invited again. Every time I look at that letter I smile as I remember a gracious and fun-filled man.

After note: In December 2015, Willard Scott officially ended his 65 year career at NBC; 35 of those years were with The Today Show. I hope he is enjoying his retirement. He certainly deserves it.


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, musings

She Ran A Red Light (Chapter Six: “Not My Time to Go” by Thornton Cline

In my past Indigo Sea Press blogs, I have share some stories from my debut ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. They have all been about angelic protection. This one is about me nearly losing my life as a teen.

I begin chapter six with a quote from Exodus 23:20  NIV:  See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

     I was age 15, very involved in community orchestras as a violinist, but had no reliable transportation to take me to the four orchestra rehearsals I had per week. Age 15 can be an awkward age, particularly if you don’t have a car or a license. That was my case.

Mrs. Tyler treated me like one of her sons. She was a kind and generous person. She never complained nor grumbled. She was dedicated to her children and always made sure they were taken care of. Many times, Mrs. Tyler was available to transport me to and from orchestra rehearsals.  But then there was Johnny, a 17-year-old cello player who played in the youth orchestra. He was kind enough to give me a ride to orchestra when Mrs. Tyler wasn’t available.

One Monday, Mrs. Tyler called my mom to tell her she couldn’t give me a ride because she had the flu. And Johnny was sick too. My mom scrambled to find a ride for me. After a dozen calls or so, my mom found Mrs. Boucher who agreed to transport me. She was one of the mothers of a friend in youth orchestra.

Tuesday arrived quickly. The last period bell at my high school rang at 3:30 p.m. It had been a ho-hum day at school. I ran out of the building with my backpack on my shoulder and violin in hand. I waved goodbye to my friend as I waited on the corner of Malvern and Augusta Avenues. My ride to youth orchestra would arrive any minute now. It was already 3:35 p.m.  The student crowd was thinning out and the last bus left the school. I was bored waiting. I looked at my watch which read 3:55 p.m. Now I was worried. My rehearsal would start at 4:30 p.m. and it always took 40 minutes to get to the rehearsal hall. Back then, there were no cell phones to call or text to check on someone. Had I missed my ride? I feared that if I went to the school office to call, I might miss Mrs. Boucher. I continued to wait, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. The time seemed like eternity. I grew more nervous. Visions of running in late for my rehearsal haunted me. I had a very strict orchestra director, Mr. Gustav Martine, a virtuoso conductor from France. I had worked hard auditioning for and preparing to hold the position of first-chair concert master in the orchestra, and I didn’t want to lost that. What if I ran in late and Mr. Martine became upset? What if Mr. Martine asked me to leave the orchestra and never come back. That happened to a friend of mine who played oboe. She was asked to leave because she was 15 minutes late.

The clock turned to 4:10 p.m. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bright-blue Chevy Impala roared up. The front passenger door flew open.

A woman yelled, “Get in!”

It was Mrs. Boucher, moving at a frantic pace. Her son, who played in the orchestra, was screaming at her from the back seat to hurry up. I threw myself into the front seat and held on for dear life with my violin case in my lap.

Mrs. Boucher took off at lightning speed.

“I’m so sorry for being late,” she kept saying.

As she drove, she dug around in her large red purse and found some pretzels and cookies. She tossed a bag over the front seat to her son and a threw a bag of cookies at me. Next, she pulled out several cans of cola as she steered with one finger. Mrs. Boucher tossed the cans at her son and me, driving like a maniac. Her eyes were everywhere but on the road.

Mrs. Boucher was swerving all over the road as she picked up speed. It was a wonder the police didn’t stop her, as her careless driving gave her away. Mrs. Boucher cursed and screamed at the cars ahead to get out of her way and to move faster. Her son and I realized that we were going to be very late to the rehearsal, perhaps by as much as 20 minutes.

The school traffic turned into heavy rush-hour traffic. Mrs. Boucher continued speeding as fast as she could down the four-lane road.

All at once, the traffic light at a four-way intersection turned red in front of us. Mr. Boucher didn’t even slow down.

“Watch out for that car!” her son screamed.

Her car barreled right on through the intersection into oncoming traffic. Car horns blared all around us, followed by the deafening sound of metal scraping, glass breaking, and tires squealing.

Her blue impala had somehow escaped any damage as several other cars swerved to miss us, colliding with each other. We came to a screeching halt about two blocks past the scene of the accident. Mrs. Boucher, her son, and I climbed out of the car, shaking badly. People rushed to help, asking if we had been hurt. Mrs. Boucher sat on the curb. Someone threw a blanket on her, worried that she might be in shock. She didn’t say a word.

Traffic backed up for miles in all directions. The cars that swerved to dodge Mrs. Boucher’s car were totaled. People were rushing to their rescue and soon the police and ambulances arrived.

At the hospital, doctors examined Mrs. Boucher and our vital signs again and kept us in the hospital overnight. But the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with us. We had no cuts or scratches. The doctors couldn’t explain how Mrs. Boucher had avoided the collision at that intersection. But the angels knew how we were protected in the invisible spiritual world.

Turns out many miracles happened that day, they say. None of those drivers and passengers involved in the accident were hurt or killed, although their cars were badly mangled. Some people dismissed the miracle, however, brushing off the lack of injuries as lucky coincidence. I knew better. While I knew, God had spared my life, I later learned that it was also my guardian angels faithfully protecting me. Another reminder that it was not my time to go, that God had some great plans for me. The accident went on to change the lives of Mrs. Boucher, her son, and me in a positive way. We were forever grateful for the gift of life. We learned never to take life for granted.



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Do It

It’s been a long few years.

Cancer in my father followed by a slow, agonizing death.

A move from Virginia back home to Nebraska.

Children growing up, moving out.

The birth of a grandchild.

Sadness. Joy. Overwhelm.

For a while there, I lost my mojo for writing.

I’m back now.

At least, I think I am.

I’ve completed two manuscripts, but they still sit there in my hard drive, partially edited. They’re like bits of not-quite-digested meat, still mulled over, still thought about.

I have no idea why I don’t publish them. I have no idea why they sit there, remembered and forgotten.

I’m 17,000 words into a new novel. It’s weight pushes out from all sides. I see it–alive and breathing and finished. And I wonder if it will be drowned in a burlap sack in the river like the others, or if I will let it live somewhere.

So with my random thoughts comes a question: What do I want from my writing?

Do I want to change the world? Do I want to be viewed as profound? Poignant? Do I want to entertain? Or, like most writers, am I just filled with ideas that torture me until I let them out.

I don’t have an answer.

I came across this today as I was sifting through the bookmarks on my computer.


It’s pretty damn good advice.

I have nothing poignant, intelligent, or advisory to offer to a reader on this day. I can only illustrate my own struggles. Perhaps that will be of help to someone. Perhaps not.

So I will let Mr. Chuck Wendig, author of the above linked blog post, say it for me.

Thanks, Chuck.

You don’t know who the hell I am, by the way.

Just another weird writer trying to Finish My Shit.


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The State of Our Union

As I consider the state of our Union, I think about the people who wish to come to the U.S. seeking the American Dream.

Recently our new President signed an executive order banning those who practice one of the oldest religions of the world, Islam, from entering the country.   The ban,  implemented this weekend,  victimizes individuals of the Islamic faith, including a small child.

Below is a photo of the five-year-old Syrian refugee child holding a small baggie in her mouth.  She’s unable to hold her baggie with her hands because her little arms and hands are bound behind her back with handcuffs.   What makes this photo more egregious is what Sean Spicer had to say at his press briefing after the weekend flurry of arrests, detentions, and people with visas turned away at their departing airports.


When asked about the little girl, Spicer commented that just because the child in handcuffs is a little girl doesn’t preclude that she isn’t dangerous.  What kind of man has such thoughts about an innocent kid?  Too, what kind of lasting effect will this have on this young girl who stands with her back against the wall next to her parents?

Two Saturdays ago, I participated in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.  Protest marches are not foreign to me.  In 1970, at the age of twenty-two, I moved from my parents’ home in New Jersey to the D.C. area.  I grew up in a strict military family environment where no one was allowed to voice dissent against anything that was going on in the U.S., especially the Vietnam War.  I held my feelings close to my vest during my last years under their roof.  When I drove my car from New Jersey to D.C., I recall thinking, I’m going to do everything I was never allowed to do.  I did indeed, including marching with thousands of anti-war advocates through the streets of Washington, D.C.

The job I moved to D.C. for was one with the U.S. Navy at the Pentagon.  However, I soon left the Pentagon for a position at the Civil Rights Commission where I worked with some of the original freedom fighters from the Civil Rights Movement.  Upon my written resignation, the Admiral I worked for called me into his office.  I quietly listened as he tried to convince me that Communists populated the Commission.

I loved working with the Commission whose purpose is to protect all the civil liberties our great country espouses.  My years in D.C. engrained within me a fierce tolerance for all people regardless of their gender, color, ethnicity or religious beliefs as well as those who did not lean toward religion.  Diversity is the very fabric which makes our country so rich with complexity.

I think about Benjamin Franklin’s words.

As Franklin emerged from deliberations at the Constitution Conference of 1787, outside Independence Hall, a female called to Franklin asking, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s words ring loud in my ears these days.

Franklin’s words, “If we can keep it,” feel urgently precarious in this year, 2017.

Just this morning as I ate my breakfast and watched Morning Joe on MSNBC, the group discussion turned to the death of Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens.  The discussion surrounded criticism coming from the DOD.

Willie Geist began the discussion surrounding Trump’s trip with his daughter, Ivanka to attend Ryan’s funeral.  Willie expounded on the Pentagon’s  criticism surrounding the Yemen mission that killed the Navy SEAL and civilians, including an eight-year-old child.   Pentagon officials criticized Trump for authorizing a poorly vetted mission where AL QAEDA detected the commando team.

Mark Halperin followed with, “You have some DOD officials saying this mission should never have been approved and that the President made a mistake. That is a very serious accusation, particularly since the first mission he authorized did result in a loss of life.”  Halperin continued, “We’ve talked about a lot of stories today. This is in some ways the most important because it goes to the fact that you have people in the Pentagon who are willing to say that the Commander in Chief made a mistake and that it was not sufficiently vetted, and to make this point throughout the program, without a Defense Secretary in place for more than a few days with the Secretary of State just in place. It’s a serious time for the President to be making these kinds of decisions. And, if the accusations are true, it’s amongst the most serious charges ever leveled against him.”

Joe Scarborough finished the discussion by commenting that this is probably the new normal for people at the DOD and the CIA who are witnessing these types of things coming out of the Whitehouse.

Scarborough continued, “We’ve warned the Administration that if you cross the CIA and people in other agencies, including the State Department, they will cut you up.  What was leaked to the NEW YORK TIMES, which again, this has been an extraordinary two weeks in.”

As I listened to the discussion, I wondered if Ryan Owen’s parents were aware of the complicity of the President regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of their son.

Halperin finished the discussion by mentioning that this comes on the back of Trump insulting the Australian Prime Minister, one of our closest allies, whom Trump hung up the phone in the middle of the conversation.  Halperin also mentioned the conversation Trump later had with Mexico’s President.

AP released an excerpt of the transcript they obtained of the second conversation with President Pena Nieto.   Trump warned in that conversation that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them.

Mexico is one of our closest trade partners.  Recently I heard the Mexican Trade Minister comment that millions of dollars flow from Mexico into the U.S. every second of every day.



Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

A Rainbow in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

In real life, it’s called a bad case of the blues, losing hope, or hitting rock bottom.   In a book, it’s called the black moment – that devastating culmination of circumstances when all momentum comes screeching to a halt, when you think things are so bad that they can’t possibly get any worse, and then, they do – that time when all hope is lost.


The thing that saddens me is that, whereas the characters in the books we write and read almost always come around to a happy ending, in real life, when we come to a dead end, we sometimes (often?) really do give up and walk away from the things that could bring us true happiness.


We all know that summer comes for only a season, and eventually, must ease into fall – which leads to the desolate cold of winter.


In some cases, it’s even given a name – SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. I’ve been prone to it for years. It can be depressing and debilitating. It can mean death to your dreams and the end to your goals.


In my book, Sweet William, Lyndsie and William seem to have finally overcome the issues that are keeping them apart when tragedy rips their dreams to shreds. The scenes that follow are some of the blackest I’ve ever written, but because of the pain they have to work through, their joy is deeper, and the ending, more sweet than any before.


When we hit a wall, we have two choices… we can crawl into a cave, cry ourselves to sleep, and settle in to hibernate for the winter, and maybe beyond.


Or, we can spend our winters looking for bright spots.




Because there are rainbows in winter, and rainbows in deserts, and flowers and dashes of color where you might least expect them, and inspiration in odd places.


And the sun keeps shining even on the coldest days.


It may be blotted out, or obscured for a time, but it is there, giving warmth and melting the snow away from your heart, and making you ready for spring.


The next time you feel hopeless and blue, read a book, maybe even THE Book.


Horrible things will happen, maybe even things that are worse than whatever is making you sad.


And then, wonder of wonder, there will be a resurrection, and out of the ashes will come new life, and somehow, you will find a happy ending.


Have faith. There are rainbows even in the desert.



Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

People and Things, by Carole Howard

My mother died in 1997 at the age of 80. She’d been losing weight and the docs neither found out why nor ended her slide, even after I insisted they admit her to a hospital and get some nutrition into her body.  Still, it had never occurred to me that she was gravely ill. So it was a shock when I got the phone call. Naivety, I guess. Or maybe denial.

My brother and I flew to Florida to pack up our mother’s things and help our dad decide where he’d live. (He couldn’t care for himself — that had been my mom’s job – because of Parkinson’s.) The packing-up process practically smacked me in the face with, “All this stuff we accumulate, in the end, it’s just….. stuff.”

But the hangers in the closet did me in.

After I took some pieces of her clothing that I wanted, I sorted the rest (which involved removal of my mother’s notes to herself, like “This blouse goes with the blue pants or the green skirt plus the paisley scarf), then donated it to the nearby synagogue. But they didn’t want the hangers. What was I to do with them? It felt wrong to just throw them out.

The hanger issue tormented me. I gathered them into bundles and used twist-ties to join them at the curvy ends. They were unwieldy. I unbundled them, then put them in cardboard boxes. It took a lot of boxes to accommodate those pieces of wood, plastic, and wire. And I was still left with the question of what to do with them. In the end, I put them back in the closet, neatly arranged according to type. Closure. Logic. Neatness.

I knew my reaction was crazy but, just like the time I went up to the apartment my husband and I were moving from, to get one last thing, and unexpectedly bawled, I knew there was something else involved.

Yet when a very good friend and member of my extended family recently died, I had a completely different reaction to her possessions. “Lily” knew she was dying, since she was the one who had declined chemotherapy. The process wasn’t a mystery, just the timing. In the last month or so of her life, she had friends come over, a few at a time, so she could give away her beautiful (she was an artist) clothing and jewelry. She had a LOT. Every piece had a story. What was unsettling to me was that she took enormous pleasure – glee, practically – in telling the stories and giving the pieces away. Really, glee. I wanted to be gleeful, for her sake, but glee was too much to ask.

Now that she’s gone, I have quite a collection of things that remind me of her: scarves, sweaters, earrings, earrings, and more earrings, and one pair of shoes. So does my daughter. She wears them frequently. I have another approach: I take out one thing and wear it a few times before I take another. Each one reminds me of Lily, one at a time, widely spaced.

I’m not sure what accounts for the difference between my reaction to my mother’s things and to Lily’s, nor the difference between my daughter’s approach and mine. Nineteen years older? Mother vs friend? Cleaning everything out vs accepting some gifts to give Lily pleasure?

I just don’t know. Did anything similar ever happen to you?

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery with a musical undertone, set in West Africa.


Filed under Carole Howard, musings, writing

Writing Book Reviews: Purpose and Tips by Christine Husom

There are two basic purposes for writing book reviews: helping potential readers decide whether they’ll read a particular one, and letting authors know what’s good, or not, about their book. It’s an evaluation of the book from the reviewer’s perspective.

Book reviews should be helpful to both reader and author alike, written as objectively as possible. A good rule of thumb is to highlight what the author did well employing the basic elements of storytelling—genre, plot, characters, dialogue, pace, conflict, climax—and to offer suggestions of ways to improve the story, or the writing itself, if need be.

One thing to watch for is if you can’t write a review of the book itself—genre aside,—don’t. You may enjoy books from a genre, or sub-genre, and then read one in a genre you find you don’t like. It’s not good practice to write a review criticizing the genre itself. Most people who read your review are partial to those books.  If you read thrillers, historical romance may not be your cup of tea. If you favor traditional mysteries, horror may be too graphic for you. An evaluation of a book is meant to be just that.

Another thing to be careful of is viciously slamming a book or author. A review that reads like a personal attack is not regarded as valid, and will be dismissed as such. It makes readers wonder what vendetta the reviewer has against the author. This is a mildly-written example: “I am glad that this book only cost me a penny. Maybe I’ll donate it to my library…just so I don’t have to look at it anymore.” Or the person who left a 1-star rating on a book then wrote, “This is a book I did not order and have not read. I have no idea how I can review a book I don’t have.” What purpose did she have for rating the book, and posting her comment?

On the other hand, constructive criticism is valuable to both authors and readers. If there are a number of grammatical mistakes or typos, and that is noted in reviews, it alerts the author he needs a better editor, and perhaps a team of proofreaders. An author should know if reviewers think the characters need to be better developed, or if the ending seems to come out of nowhere, or if the pacing was too slow, or too fast. The following review gives the author something to ponder: “The author writes a thriller that is hard to put down, but her sentence structure needs improvement.” It’s not written as an attack. Instead, it is constructive criticism.

If you don’t like a book, but want to write a review on it, you can be thoughtful and honest without being cruel. Think of it as a personal critique to the author. Be respectful, and leave out any personal put-downs. When you evaluate a book and post it on sites, your review is out there for the world to see. People, in general, appreciate honesty served with a measure of decorum.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series.


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Bill (continued) by John E. Stack

Bill has been in foster care for two and a half years now.  He has been the topic of my writing several times over the past two years, and we thought that last month we had a forever (adoptive) family for him.  Prayers were answered and visits were started.  Then Satan decided to get involved, again.  He placed a grain of doubt in the perspective father’s head and he couldn’t break free of it.

Adoptive mom had fallen head-over-hills in love with Bill and could just see him being an integral part of their family.  She spent time with him 3-4 times a week for around four weeks.  After a few visits, adoptive dad started to come to visits.  All indications were that he was “in,” meaning that he was ready to take on the responsibility.   They were going to proceed with getting the adoption started.

In watching Bill’s interaction with them, he didn’t warm-up quickly.  But, that is true with anyone that he doesn’t see on a daily basis.  Usually, about half-way through the visit he would  start warming up and by the end, he would be sitting on their laps.  It was evident that the mom was all in, but dad never seemed to truly get comfortable.  Before their last visit, all was good, but by the next day all had changed.  We don’t know why, just that dad had changed his mind.

We are glad that it happened before they started the proceedings, but dad should have been more honest from the beginning.

Bill was starting to bond with this family.  He was starting to get comfortable with them being there. Then, when visitation stopped.  Bill’s behavior changed.  For a while, he was angry – hitting screaming, biting. Things have calmed a bit, but Bill is now more weary of strangers coming in to the house.

We have not given up hope that right adoptive family will come along.  Bill deserves it.

Today, there are over 10,000 kids in foster care in North Carolina.  Two to three thousand of them are available for adoption right now.  These kids did nothing wrong, but many have problems.  Many have been abused: physically, mentally and sexually.  Many have done without food for days because their birth parents would rather party or spend money on drugs/alcohol.  These kids were not a priority in their own families.  Most of the babies that are in foster care are victims of mothers doing drugs and drinking alcohol while pregnant.  Fetal alcohol syndrome and ADHD show up in lots of these babies.

These kids have done nothing wrong, so they deserve a chance to have a family that loves them.  Will there be problems? Yes.  Will the children be angry? Yes.  Will there be some learning disabilities? Probably.  But, these kids deserve a home with loving, understanding parents.

What happens to a child that does not get adopted?  Unless they sign an agreement to stay in foster care and go to college, they are released at age 18.  Hopefully, they have bonds with their foster family so they can have some stability.  Most often, they turn to drugs and alcohol.  Many are homeless and get money through various ways.  More often than not, they end up in jail for theft, prostitution, drugs…

Most of the girls end up pregnant.  They continue using drugs and don’t/can’t get prenatal support.  So, if the baby or the mother has drugs in their systems, the babies go into foster care.  It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.  It costs $1200 to $2000 per month for a child to be in foster care, but it costs the child a lot more.

These kids have done nothing wrong.  Open up your heart and home and change the life of a child.  Is it tough?  Yes, but worth it a thousand times over.

Consider a career in foster care.  There is a vast shortage of foster families and even a greater shortage of adoptive families.  Step out of your comfort zone and do something that could change the world.  Open up and change a life.  Some how, some way, just get involved.


***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.


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Two countries separated by a common language, by Sheila Deeth

Fields mountains and houses covered in snow.

A post shared by Sheila Deeth (@sheiladeeth) on

I was walking on the green and saw this view. Suitably inspired, I suggested two friends go onto the green as well. They looked at me with that what in earth does she mean expression I’ve grown to accept as my due,  then agreed “Oh yes,  let’s walk on the greenway.”

Back in England the green, as in village green, is that common area of grass where people congregate,  play cricket, or maybe read books on benches while watching the ducks. But here,  it seems,  it’s the place where people play golf …

… which explains a curious  mystery I’d been trying to solve. How did I,  from a family where no one plays golf,  end up on so many golfing email lists? Perhaps some Internet spying machine saw me use the word green on Facebook,  Twitter and in blog posts. But why and how were they looking?

And who else is looking?

And who else is so completely mistaken about me?

‘Tis a strange new world, even more so when you wander into that gap where two nations are separated by a common language.

Sheila Deeth is an English American author,  with two novels,  Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, published by Indigo Sea Press.


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Carry On by Chuck Thurston



We were talking with old friends – a couple – that we had not seen for some time. It was the tail end of the holiday season. The grey of a gloomy day had darkened into a cold night. An outside light showed snow flurries swirling around the bare limbs and darkened evergreens. We were digging into memories of past times good and bad. The short days and long nights of the winter solstice often seem to invite these reflections. The setting and time of year lent itself to nostalgia.

We talked of the parties of long ago – the candles, the music, the gaiety, those then present; the several now gone. The lady said that she got in this mood after her father died, and that she missed him and grieved for his absence every day. I had not heard of her father’s death and told her I was sorry for her loss. I asked when it had happened. “Eight years ago,” she replied.

Had she lived in Victorian times, her job would have been much easier.

Back then the process was highly ritualized, and twelve months was considered appropriate for a child mourning a parent, or vice versa. If you’re wondering, yes, there was a sliding scale. A full two years was considered appropriate for a widow; first cousins merited only four weeks. Everyone else – a sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, was somewhere in between.

The Victorians wore the appropriate clothes, conducted the appropriate ceremonies, had a lavish funeral and erected an ornate monument for the grave. Manuals and journals described the mourning etiquette in the event the survivors needed guidance. I am sure they continued to miss the departed for a longer or shorter period of time depending on the nature of the relationship, but as far as formal mourning went, they dropped it after the prescribed period.

Life then, if less complicated, was harsher. Household tasks had to be taken care of; farm or home tended to, children to be raised with few of today’s conveniences. In many cases efforts were begun to acquire a new mate or partner to fill the void. “There’s no limit to what a person can accomplish,” the saying is, “but they can rarely do it by themselves.” So it often seemed desirable in those days to hook up with another solo soul and carry on. My grandfather’s first wife died leaving him with nine children, and he wasted no time finding another mate.

The Victorians believed in curtailing social behavior for a set period of time, but that practice seems outmoded now. Many losing a loved one today feel obligated to advertise the extent of their pain across the internet. Perhaps this is a part of the healing process, but many of the posts are troubling; some are frightening in their description of despair and the feeling that life has lost much of its meaning.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. He later wrote that suicides were not uncommon under these brutal conditions. Two prisoners in his building were talked out of their intent to kill themselves. Others reminded them that they had important things yet to do. One had a child who had escaped to Canada and would want to join him after the war. The other was a noted scientist who had begun a series of books that only he could finish. When others reminded them of their duty to their future, they abandoned their suicide plans.

And that is key – our duty to the future. I do not know what cognizance the departed have of the lives they leave behind, but I would be saddened beyond belief if I knew that a loved one of mine was crippled with inconsolable grief by my going. It would seem to speak poorly of my earthly contributions to our happiness. Was the time we spent together so vapid and unfulfilling that he or she can’t summon up memories of shared joys to buffer the pain of my departure? If the spirits of the dead are permitted anger, I think mine would be angry.

For life is not a three-legged bag race. Barring some catastrophic event, one of a loving couple will die before the other. My wife and I brush on this topic now and then. One or the other of us usually mentions that it would be extremely difficult to carry on alone. But the answer to the statement that “I couldn’t go on without you,” is certainly, “Yes, you could; you must, really.” Each person will find the tools necessary to build a new life and directions for the path going forward. The tools are the good memories of years gone by. The path will reveal itself through them. Healing will commence, because it must; grief is not a career and doesn’t deserve that consideration.

So back to Viktor Frankl…how did he come through? Was he empowered by the knowledge that he had something important left to do? As a matter of fact he did. When he first entered the concentration camp he set three goals for himself. He first determined that he would survive; he made a commitment to use his medical skills to help where he could, and, remarkably – that he would learn something from the experience. His book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” came out of the misery of Auschwitz.

Carry on.


Chuck Thurston lives and writes in Kannapolis, NC. His two volumes of Senior Scribbles (Unearthed and Second Dose) will be joined by a third in 2017: Senior Scribbles Bathroom Reader. His work is available from the Indigo Sea Press and Amazon.

Joel Barker’s The Power of Vision documentary tells the story of Viktor Frankl.


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