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My life did a complete 180 recently, when I was diagnosed with cancer.  All of my social activities have been cancelled until the first round of chemo and radiation are complete.  In late June, the doctors will tell me what the next step will be, sort of like one of those treasure hunts on TV where you sweat and strive to get somewhere just to be told that you need to sweat some more to get to the next location.
During this time, several friends from church have brought over meals for us.  I'm very thankful for it, and I don't want to complain, but some of them didn't ask me what my side affects are, and the meals are something I can't have.  Radiation irritates the lining of my throat.  Pepper is painful.  My taste buds have changed.  Pizza tastes like plain tomato paste.  But we came up with a solution to my "there are poor children in Africa that would love to have a meal like that" guilt trip.  We found frozen entrees of macaroni and cheese.  Now, when a friend sends over Mexican food, my husband and son can enjoy their wonderful home cooked meal, and I can have something that is easy to swallow.
Yesterday, I noticed another need that probably doesn't occur to anyone.  I know I didn't think about it when I was bringing meals to sick friends.  My husband ran out of paperback books.
My husband has to wait for me to get my procedures done.  Some days, we have three or four doctor's appointments in one afternoon.  It gives him hours and hours of reading time.
On the way home from my appointment, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  They had a bargain bin of books.  When my husband saw it, he started digging through the pile like a dog smelling the scent of a ham bone.
So, if you are trying to be kind to someone with a serious illness, I'd like to ask you to do two things.  First, ask about their dietary needs before you offer to cook dinner for them.  Second, stick a paperback book in the bag, too.
A lot of the notices I've been getting from Pinterest tell me that my dragonfly swapping pin was a popular article in my newspaper column in the Examiner. 

I have a whole chapter of swapping pin ideas in my free leader's guide, I Am Living My Faith.  It is a free ebook available at, and includes all the activities I did with my Junior Girl Scout troop when we were earning the religious emblem, I Live My Faith.  You can get a copy at: 

In the back of the book, I've included patterns for SWAPS (Something Wearable Affectionately Pinned Somewhere) that are made from recycled or inexpensive materials.  They seem to be a good craft project for this emblem, because so much of the focus is on being a good friend to others.


The last five years of my mother's life, she was too feeble to get to a store.  She spent most of her time in a recliner, reading books, working puzzles and watching TV.  Her home was filled with books on a variety of subjects, and when she had reread all of those, she joined a mail order book club.

She appreciated it when I would bring a book to her and say "here, I enjoyed this one.  I think you'll like it, too."  She agreed with me most of the time, and when she didn't, it just gave us something to talk about besides how bad her knees hurt.

Writing book reviews is a continuation of that.  I enjoy giving self published authors a platform in which they can be seen in my newspaper column.  I like helping their rankings and sales, hoping that somehow, someone else will return the favor, and help my books get some exposure and ranking, too.

But the real reason I do it is my mother.  She's not the only one who can't get to a store.  Some people are too busy with their jobs.  Some people have disabilities.  Some people have small children.  I think of my reviews as a ministry to people who can't shop, helping them find a good book to make their life more enjoyable.

When my husband and I attended a retreat about our spiritual lives, we were told that everyone should have a ministry of some kind.  We don't all have to be preachers or missionaries to serve God.  All we need to do is perform some small act of kindness on a regular basis because it helps someone some how.

Perhaps writing book reviews can be your ministry as well.  Help authors like me.  Help people like my mother.  And then go to sleep with a smile on your face because you did your good deed for the day.

On Higher Ground is featured in this week's blog at Writing Life.  The book blog is hosted by Mary Anne Benedetto, an author and certified lifewriting instructor.  She is the author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect and From Italy with Love & Limoncello, Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!
Melanie Worlds has run out of luck; no job, no friends, no future.  Desperately wanting to replace the middleclass life she once knew up on “the Hill”, her faith is being tested to the limits.  JT, her newest friend, is up to something, but Melanie isn’t sure what it is. 
And then Brad, her high school crush, comes back to town.  She can’t let him know how bad it is, or he’ll lose all respect for her. And, to make matters worse, someone is trying to break into her apartment.  

None of her prayers are getting answered, and she feels all alone.  But she’s not. 
Two guardian angels have been assigned to help these three humans.  The angels know God’s plan, and it’s going to take everything they’ve got to pull it off.  To battle temptation, the angels will need to instill courage; courage to dare, courage to dream, and most of all, courage to love one

“A stunning story of angels, wonder and redemption. Prepare to be amazed.”  Duffy Brown, author of “Iced Chiffon” and “Killer in Crinolines”
“This is a novel with a lot of heart and with fully fleshed-out characters that we come to care about.”   T. J. Banks, author of “Sketch People:  Stories Along the Way”

This cover was designed by Lisa Hainline at

"LIKE" her and get more tips for Christian authors at:

On Higher Ground will be published by Create Space in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for more information, or see the author's profile at

The recent headlines about teenagers being charged with sexual assault for sleeping with their girlfriends has made me think that maybe it’s time we change the labels we attach to this behavior.  I’m thinking that sex crimes need to be sorted out into three categories;
violent, conniving, and stupid.

 Violent crime would include rape, kidnapping and assault; things that hurt and damage not only the body, but the soul.  Yes, these people should be locked up, because that is the main purpose of jail. Jail protects the public from people who would harm them.

 Conniving offenses would include things like funny uncles, peeping toms and exhibitionists.  Yes, these people should take the counseling classes offered currently in
jail.  These people are sick, and need a drastic attitude adjustment.

 Stupid crimes are sleeping with an under aged girlfriend, public urination and streaking.  These crimes are caused by making a bad choice or running with the wrong crowd.  Unfortunately, these stupid people have to take the same classes as the psychotic criminals.  That’s stupid.  If it has a different cause, then it needs a different cure.

 The first class stupid offenders need to take is a class on making decisions.  When my son was an electrical engineering student at the University of South Alabama, he took
decision making for engineers.  I read his text book.  It said basically the same thing that my husband studied in managerial analytics for business.  The classes and text
books already exist.  So, instead of making stupid people take psychotic classes, sentence them to taking a class on how to make smart decisions.  Maybe they’ll realize that if it feels too good to be true, it’s probably a bad idea.

 When stupid crimes happen, there’s usually enough blame to throw around in every direction.  Yes, the kid made a bad choice, but some of the blame belongs to stupid parents that didn’t educate their children about nice girl rules. 
Nice girl rules came under attack during the Hippie era and Woodstock, and that free love attitude is still going on in our television shows and movies.  But, our laws
are based on nice girl rules.  Our laws are based on personal responsibility and respect of others.  If you’re not responsible about your freedoms, they will be taken
away.  If you don’t respect other people, they have the right to punish you.  Your rights and freedoms only go to the point where you take a right or freedom away from someone else.  All of these laws boil down to the basic value of being nice.

 So, for the sake of protecting our children from morons and idiots, and reducing the number of stupid teenagers in the world, please take time to teach your children nice girl rules. (even if they are boys.)

 1.       Nice girls save themselves for the right guy.  Kissing is for like, petting is for love, and sex is forever.  If you are not old enough to get married, you are not old enough for
forever.  If forever isn’t going to take place tomorrow, then don’t do that one today. 
If you do it, forever will show up in a way you don’t want it to.  This is a safety rule as much as it is a virtue.

 2.    Nice girls only date nice guys.  A nice guy agrees with rule number one, and doesn’t try to get anything that he hasn’t rightfully earned.  Nice guys do not score.

 3.    If a guy tries to score before he has earned that expression of trust, a nice girl will
break up with him no matter how cute or popular he may be.  Nice girls also break up with boys who tell secrets in the locker room.  This rule comes under the
category of Meathead Management.  If you let one meathead get away with it, the rest
of them will want it, too.

 4.      Nice girls do not hang out in their pajamas when there are strange boys in the
house.  Any boy who is not your brother or father is strange.  This rule also applies to bra straps, slips and panties in public, too.  This is also a form of Meathead Management. 
If you don’t want them to do it, then don’t make them think about it.

 5.   Nice girls do not wear clothing that shows off parts of their body that they don’t
want a stranger to touch.  Respect is something you earn, and just as a soldier respects a uniform, a nice boy will respect a nice outfit.  
6.    Nice girls do not go into a boy’s bedroom. This is a safety rule.  If you stay in the living room, you’ll have enough privacy to talk and kiss, but not enough to do anything immodest.  
7.   Nice girls do not get into bed.  If they lay ON a bed because they are in a dorm
room, and they don’t have any other way to get privacy, they keep their legs crossed at all times.

 8.     Nice girls do not go to hotels.  When ‘Glee’ aired an episode where four teenage couples went to a hotel, they proved that the entire cast of that show is not nice.  Nice girls do not follow the example of people who are not nice.  Nice girls are smart enough to know that just because someone else is doing it does not mean that it is the smart thing to do.

 9.     Nice girls do not make out in public: even if they are protesting Chick-Fal-A’s

 10.  Nice girls do not swear.  If you use the f bomb, boys will automatically assume that you’ve done that before, and it’s OK to ask you to do it again. A swear word is the name of something that ought to be respected, said in a way that does not show respect. 
If you want people to respect you, then use respectable words.
A rule is not a limit on your freedom.  A rule is just a million mistakes written in a sentence.  Rules protect your freedom by keeping you safe.  Rules make things fair.  And
smart people use rules to learn from other people’s mistakes. After all, there isn’t enough time to make all the mistakes yourself.

My mother lives on a farmette, three acres of land in rural  Arkansas.  My father’s secret
desire was to be a farmer, and after he left the ministry, he fulfilled that  desire by buying that property.  He had several large truck gardens and grew a variety of vegetables, including corn, asparagus and tomatoes.

 Now that he’s gone, the gardens have gone back to natural grass.  Mom keeps the grass mowed in self-defense.  When it’s long, grasshoppers set in and chiggers thrive.

 In among the grass are bunches of wild daisies.  Her neighbors all mow their daisies, but my mother mows around them.  Even though they’re not as big or showy as the garden variety, she still appreciates their beauty.

 That’s pretty much the way Mom looks at everything.  She sees the good for what it is, even if it could have been better.  She mows the weeds, memories of bad times, short and keeps them in perspective.  Like mulch made from weeds, she turns her own sorrow into compassion and uses it to nourish her relationships with other people.

 Dad was a manic depressive. Living with him for forty years wasn’t always easy.  He didn’t always receive the love others tried to show him.  He accused us of hurting him by
reinterpreting our words and actions in ways that were never intended.  He used emotional weapons—guilt, anger, rejection—to get even with us for things we never

 But he could be thoughtful, too.  He supported our career choices by sending us to college and buying things we needed. He took us on horseback rides when we were small.  He gave us piggy back rides and taught us how to fish.

 When we think about him now, we have a choice of recalling the thoughtless things, or the caring things he did.  Like my mother’s pasture, we can cut the weeds short and mow around the daisies, taking their beauty in their wild state, accepting them for what they are without comparing them to the ones in the florist shop.

 Or, we can consider the daisies to be weeds, too, and mow the whole thing down.  But what is there to show in that?

 Or, again, we can let our thoughts grow wild, and allow every memory, good and bad, to grow to their full height.  Weeds grow taller than grass, taller than flowers, and if left alone, will overshadow and choke out the wildflowers.  Then, the grass hoppers will set in, and the chiggers thrive; anger, resentment, self-pity, remorse.

 It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re eaten up with chigger bites.  It’s equally hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re eaten up with anger.

 When I visit Mom and see the wild flowers left to grow, I remember that.  Maybe that’s why she lets them grow, too.  Maybe, when she thinks about Dad, her thoughts are like the daisies.

In memory of Arleen G. Knoderer
June 4, 1921 to April 23, 2013
Rest in Peace
I just did my first guest blog.  Here's an article about how God can even the score for us when we feel cheated.

The other day, I was in a store, and noticed an Advent calendar for sale.  This calendar was decorated with a Christmas tree, presents, holly and other symbols of Christmas, but it was called a "holiday count down calendar".  This was taking the politically correct expression of "happy holidays" a little too far.
I can understand that a store doesn't want to offend its non-Christian customers by saying "merry Christmas" to them.  "Happy holidays" is a broader term that wishes good will to Jews, people who celebrate Kwanza, and Christians alike.  But most of the stores I've been shopping in haven't even said that to me.
Why do our solutions have to be all one way, or all the other?  Why can't an Advent calendar be called just that?  What else does it count down to but Christmas?
And when a customer is checking out, why can't the sales clerk take a look at the person's clothing and jewelry, and give them a more personal greeting?  Isn't a cross necklace or a sweatshirt with Christmas trees all over it non-verbal communication of what the person believes in?  If the customer is non-verbally communicating what holiday they celebrate, then why isn't it OK to wish them a merry one?
So when you see me wearing my Christmas earrings, and a shirt covered with Christmas wreaths, feel free to wish me a merry Christmas.  I'll wish you one right back.