Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Flashback post: The reality of a grilled cheese sandwich



I wrote this a few years ago, but it was shared today on the Cookbook Love Facebook page. The topic aligns with a recent post by Jessica Faust (Bookends Literary Agency) about the need to properly attend to details in writing, so I thought I'd post it again.
____________________________________________

I've got a beef this morning. A writing beef.

I'm reading a book, the last in a pile of three that I began and then threw to the side. I may have to ditch this one as well if it doesn't cut it out.

This time it's a problem with details. The author seems to just make things up without bothering to see if they actually make sense. One of the characters is a baker, and so there are frequent references to baking processes. But the author isn't particularly concerned if they are correct. Here are a few examples.

In one case, the baker can't be interrupted because she is kneading. A few minutes later she comes out saying that she finished the tarts.

PROBLEM: There is no kneading required when making tarts. They use pastry crust.

Later on, an assistant complains that there is something wrong with the buttercream frosting she made. The baker tastes it and proclaims that the egg whites were bad.

PROBLEM: There are no egg whites in buttercream. Or yellows for that matter.

Another detail violation happens in a bathtub. The protagonist is soaking and enjoying a plastic water tumbler of Chardonnay while musing about her terrible life, and then describes a loofah getting snagged on her leg stubble.

PROBLEM: Stubble wouldn't snag.

Perhaps if you had very course, very curly, very long leg hair there might be a Velcro effect. But stubble? Stubble sticks straight out. It's not snaggish. It won't run a pair of pantyhose let alone slow down a sponge.

Why, why, why, oh why?

Are cooking references really such a selling point that it doesn't matter if they make sense? Is there such a rush to go to press that editors don't pay attention to what they are reading? Was this story the second piece in a two-book deal with a very short deadline?

I'm trying to figure it out, hopefully so I can learn by negative example. Perhaps this is similar to what artists try to teach; to draw what we actually see rather than what we think we see. This author is writing what she thinks leg loofahing is about, without actually getting in the tub and testing it. Or even imagining through recollection. It's like the story is running merrily along and she captures it, thinking leg hair might be amusing, so down it goes and in it remains.

On the plus side, I guess I have learned something. While writing details, I need to really be in the scene. If I describe making a grilled cheese sandwich I need to actually walk through the process, at least mentally. The butter has to be spread. The cheese has to be unwrapped. I'll need to remember how the toasty bread lifts up like butterfly wings and the melting orange oozes over the edges if I cut it too soon and too hot.

I've learned that I need to really live the darned sandwich experience rather than assume I know what it is and say something nonsensical.

I guess I won't throw the book across the room. I'll continue reading, and see what else I can glean.

And now, I'm ready for lunch.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Shroud is Ready


I'm continuing to process my grief through poetry. Here's this week's entry.

The Shroud is Ready
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall
10/23/19


The clacking bones called us
“That Bunch”
when we audaciously planted
an orgy of produce
then invaded their sacred space
to feed the hungry
doing things ways
they hadn’t been done
and making the bones very
very
uncomfortable.

That Bunch helped our pastor pack
his office this week
filling boxes with books
family photos
worn collars
a virgin baptismal stole
a diploma from Princeton
note-scrawled legal pads chronicling his call
to the sepulcher which came to reject it.

Some of the bones clacked through while we packed
making sure he’d be out by the deadline
chattering a demand
that keys be returned
that locks be changed
in case That Bunch decided to stage
a final feast
without permission.

We finished loading boxes
into vehicles
and stopped in the sanctuary
which had been draped
to protect it from debris
when roofers banged new shingles
into place
everything shrouded
as if someone had died
their house prepared
for vacancy.

A fitting place
for bones to molder
and ghosts to multiply
as the living are borne away
by the winds of grace
to continue feeding a world
desperate for love.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Rictus Victory

Old black and white line drawing of Dancing skeletons, called 'Dance of Death'

Rictus Victory
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

Our church voted yesterday
to accept the resignation
of its young pastor
a gay firebrand
irritant bringer of “others”
inadequately obsequious
to the spirits of those
who’d come before.

The back pews clapped
When the vote announced
it was finished.
Skeletal hands clacking
smiles stretching wide
in rictus victory.

His time in that stone sepulcher is over
and he is gone
as are we; the queer couple
the musician dad
the single black mother and her three kids
the Moms Demand Action rep
the planter of a community garden
the tireless doer of deeds who kept the place running
the “others.”

The bones in the back pews clapped
as we wept for lost hope
for the broken world
for the pastor
for ourselves.

The bones clapped
for next Sunday
when they will hobble in
to find us gone
and they will dance
their skeletal dances
unaware
that the skin of their hands
is a mirage.

Happy to be alone
to chatter and clatter
their death dance
as the dust gathers
and the doors clang shut
leaving them to join the ghosts
who wait
and shriek
that they have won.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dead Cicada Season

Cicada against black background. Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Dead Cicada Season
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall
9/24/19

It’s dead cicada season
the time when winged corpses
litter the ground
still enfleshed
as if ready
to fly and serve
the function for which they were created
to sing in the twilight
battling darkness
to buzz and hum
with life
a calling
reminder
that summer has ended
and winter approaches
when growth and hope
are buried
frozen
waiting
for spring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Make Church Great Again

Tattered white tennis shoe with soul coming off on red-clay dirt.

Make Church Great Again
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

A voice we heard
at church, a month ago
reported scandal:
the pastor only had time
for the poor
the black
the gay.
A white woman
with white hair
spoke her white truth
with indignation
and sorrow.
The church she knew had changed;
its glorious past
no longer a shining present.
She wanted back
her club of privilege
that place where respect was properly assigned.

Her voice became a chorus
men spitting their rage
telling decades-old stories
of heroic contribution
of fallen places of honor.
The crowd screamed their demand;
the head of the offending pastor
a return to the attention they deserved.
Clamoring to make church great again
white again
straight again
theirs again.

I heard a different voice
last night
while working in the church kitchen
finalizing a meal we would serve for free
to struggling families
to the homeless
to the lonely
to the addicted.

My wife and I began this feeding
our queer audacity recognizing
that hunger comes in many forms
including the congregation’s need to serve.
But few participate.
The souls who come to be fed
are fuel for their rage.
They weren’t there when the voice spoke last night.

“What size do you wear?” he said.
A young black man;
our guest, Leland,
from the assisted living facility across the street.
“What size do you wear?”

He spoke to a ginger-haired guy
who sleeps beneath the stars .
and has no address
no phone
no way for possible employers to reach him.
who said he hates when it rains
because of his shoes
walked into tatters
the souls nearly disconnected.

“What size do you wear?”
Leland asked,
and hearing the answer
took off his shoes
gleaming white and stylish
and gave them to him
then walked barefoot
across the street
to get an older pair for himself.

The young man left later
belly full of home-cooked food
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in hand
shining new shoes on his feet
to walk miles in the dark
so he could sleep behind Walmart.

This is what church looks like.
Not the screaming white faces
demanding their due
because queer women
and black men
and a gay pastor
make them yearn for the days
when they didn’t feel uncomfortable.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Scandal of Messy Abundance

Picture of twin branches of a paw paw tree, with hand-shaped leaves against a blue sky. Photo by Lynn Greyling (publicdomainpictures.net)

The Scandal of Messy Abundance
by Suzanne DeWitt Hall

Our cemetery guide explained
that the shining white obelisks
dwindling into the sky
signify our journey toward God.
When doing it right
we disappear at the very tip
when stone ends
and God begins.

He drove on,
slowing our bus disguised as a trolley
to show us
a fruit-heavy paw paw tree
then stopping so we could glean.

A friend from our war-torn church
named Phil
led the way, and I followed.

Phil planted a garden
in our church yard
beneath a spire
which signifies our journey toward God.

It's messy, that garden
with zinnias and bursting tomatoes
dying cucumber vines
and sprawling overgrown greens
which may be weeds
or sweet potatoes
or the most gorgeous fall blooms
waiting to surprise us
if we resist the urge
to tame the tumult.

The murmurers inside don't like it
overgrown and frowzy
too full of life and chaos
too free with invitation
for people who are not them
to come
to pluck
to be filled.

Phil led the way
toward the paw paw steeple
which signifies a tree's journey toward God.
I followed, bending to step beneath
low branches
fruit scattered on the ground
in messy abundance
some overripe and rotting
some eaten by those who were not invited
     those who dared forage on sacred ground
     dared stare up at edifices of stone
     dared taste the sweetness growing there
without permission.

We gathered the fruit which
had not yet grown soft and brown
had not been ravaged
by the hungry teeth of rodents
of vermin
of other.

We gathered until our hands were full
and then boarded the trolley
which wasn't.

We handed the fruit
to whoever wanted a taste
of what grows so close to death
the sweetness side by side
with sorrow
our journey toward God not up
into the sky
but in the fecund earth
and the faces of the people
reaching to taste.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Literature Which Isn't

Photos of flowing white mushrooms at night, with multiple fluttering mushrooms amid trees, by mage by Игорь Левченко from https://pixabay.com

I've decided to start a new spiritual practice, of writing a poem each work day on any topic which demands attention. They may not be uber polished and glossy, but they will exist as a kind of journal.

Here's the first.

Literature Which Isn't

At night we listen to meditations
designed to lull us into forgetting
to drift us somewhere else;
a hummingbird garden
a tree house by an ocean
a secret bookstore.

The voices are soothing
assured
softly instructing our breath
taking control of our thoughts
directing us
toward sleep.

An editor would say
where is the action?
Why is there no conflict?
Tell us more about the main character!

In this night space
There is only detail:
the repetitive green of leaves
the shimmer of water
the breathing in to a count of four.

My beloved's night mind battles
the troubles of the world
and so we listen
to literature which isn't.
Effective, despite
so she is free
to rest.

All it takes
for my breathing to grow rhythmic
and my mind to drift into gray
is to curl into the warmth
of her back.
knowing she is awake
watching over me.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

So many platforms, so little time to write


I'm super lucky that my wife does the vast majority of my social media work, because I have a lot of writing projects in assorted genres, and if I were to try to keep up there'd be no time to write.

Meanwhile, this website, my author page, has been rather neglected. Given my recent focus on devotionals, I've included a screen shot to the Where True Love Is website above, because the blog there tends to have more frequent updates.

I'll try to be better in this space, particularly as things move forward with the novel I'm pitching. Stay tuned on that, but it the meantime, head on over to Where True Love Is.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Naked Sentinel


This is our Christmas tree, and no, we aren't getting ready to drag it out to the curb. It's been naked and waiting since the day we bought it. 

I had a vision of decorating it Christmas Eve, the way they did in Ye Olden Days, when the twinkling lights adorning the branches were candles and the risk of fire was significant. Back when Christmas began rather than ended on December 25th. It's a vision I've entertained for decades; a romantic notion fed from books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Charles Dickens. My darling Dolce puts up with my fancies and was willing to try the Christmas Eve thing this year. 

But sometimes life intrudes. My dad died December 18. 

He didn't want a funeral, so there was nothing to do but sit with the news.

Dad was also romantic, though his ran in the style of Henry David Thoreau. Many of my childhood memories are the result of the restlessness his heart experienced. We moved a lot and jobs were transitory. For a while, we lived close to the land in a one room cabin with no running water. I learned about hunting for hickory nuts there, and what wintergreen leaves look like, and how to keep picking black raspberries despite the scratch of thorns. I learned to be careful when chewing a mouthful of squirrel because you could break a tooth on a stray piece of bird shot. I also learned how to appreciate oddballs, like the elderly hoarder up the road who let us fill our metal milk can with water from the pump in his front yard. His name was Charlie Parker. Chickens and ducks clucked out of the way when we drove up, and a pack of basset hounds bayed their warning hellos. Charlie Parker showed my dad how to stir together a simple dough and bake bannock in a cast iron skillet over an open wood fire. Dad made the bread just once. The bottom was burned, but he was proud.

He didn't want a funeral, but Dad said he'd like his ashes scattered there on that mountain where my parents argued while deer mice made nests in the belongings we stored in a shed not far from the outhouse.

A few years later, my Dad moved out. The end of the marriage was swift, and shocking. My mom, brother, and I had to move into low-income housing, which meant giving away our beloved dogs. Mom was a wreck for several years. I stayed away from home as much as I could, hanging out with my boyfriend and getting up to no good. Mom's family lived on the opposite coast, and we had no contact from dad's family, so connection with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents was lost. Although he moved a few states away, Dad tried to stay in touch. I have an old scrap book containing letters from him during those years. But human nature made it easy to turn him into the villainous cause of all our suffering.

Dad didn't come to my wedding in 1986. I never asked him why, and of course now it's too late for questions. I imagine he avoided it out of guilt and shame. I'm beginning to think they are the most corrosive emotions; infections that fester and deepen unless they're lanced so light and air can stream in. I forgave Dad decades ago for my childhood pain. My brother's had a harder time doing that. Since then I've inflicted damage on my own children, and understand better what it is to be immobilized by guilt and fear of rejection. My heart hurts when I think about the possibility of Dad suffering those emotions for fifty years.

Facebook allowed my dad and I to reconnect in a way we hadn't previously given the distance of geography and time. With Dolce's encouragement, I also connected with his wife and daughters. It's fun to have sisters, and I'm grateful to have a wise, witty, protective stepmom. I'd hoped to visit them one day. We'd be a gaggle of girls around the old man my dad had become. It's clear that Dad was a better father to them than he was able to be for us. 

December dwindled while I processed the reality that he was gone, along with the chance to be part of that gaggle. Christmas Eve arrived. Dolce and I still intended to decorate the tree that evening, but it was a hard day. Tears welled suddenly even when I wasn't thinking about my dad. We passed time with books, television, and me crying periodically. The tree stood waiting, tall, and a bit too slim in the hips. A sentinel and a symbol; waiting but not demanding. Sharing space with us; a green reminder of Christmas with all it's loss and promise.

It still stands waiting, on this, the seventh day of Christmas. It will wait with us, naked and brave, for five nights longer. After the day on which we celebrate the magi's arrival we'll carry it out of the house. If we lived in the country I would drag it to an empty field and set it ablaze. If we lived on the water I would put it in a boat, putter out to the deep, and watch it sink and settle to become a sanctuary for fish. But we live landlocked in the city limits of a small town.

I think I'll lean it in a corner against the garage so birds can shelter when the winter winds blow. I'll watch it lose it's color and vibrancy, losing the fight of days marching until its death is no longer arguable. And when the tree is even more naked, once the needles are gone and the wood is dry, I'll cut it into pieces. I'll use the tree to make a fire. I'll bake a round cake of bannock. It will probably burn on the bottom. Dolce and I will lift a glass of something, and I'll sift through the mix of memories and tell her some happy ones; of the taste of a turkey shot behind our cabin, and the sight of a rusting model A Ford in our driveway, and of the scent of gun oil and home-rolled cigarettes. 

The stories will mix with the scent of baking bread and burning wood, and the tree will become a part of the story of my dad and I. A sentinel to the unique thing that was us.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cover reveal: TRANSFIGURED is coming!

I've been busy getting my second Where True Love Is devotional ready for launch, and so you haven't seen much news from me on this blog. You can follow the status and read excerpts from Transfigured however on the Where True Love Is website!

Meanwhile, here's a peek at the cover:


It's a wonderful resource for all people who want to broaden their view of our limitless God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday Fish

Image result for ash wednesday meal program

I wrote this summary of our Ash Wednesday three years ago, and for some reason, never posted it. Posting now, because I still need to take to heart what we experienced.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and Dolce and I discussed the readings of the day over breakfast. We'd taken our time getting out of our warm bed and so breakfasted late. I sliced thick slabs form a lovely loaf of fresh sour dough bread and fried a couple of eggs each. I slathered butter over the crusty toast. Dolce made yummy sounds the whole time she at it. Toast is one of her favorite things. We compared how Jesus' instructions to keep pious actions on the down low seemed to be in contrast with the very public sign of a dark smear of ashes across the forehead. Dolce talked about the practice of giving up chocolate or other favorite vice, wondering if it would be more in keeping with Christ's instructions to just go out more fully into the world as carriers of God's love? And so off we went to our church's Wednesday fee lunch program for the hungry. We'd been planning to attend for months, to see if we might volunteer here as we have once a month at our previous church's meal program. When it is our night to cook we consider ourselves the hosts of an extended family dinner party. We choose a menu that is special, balanced, and contrasting in textures, colors, and flavors.

We walked in to the fellowship hall and saw full tables and faces of mixed complexions and ages. Most people were men. Two women were there with two girls who looked to be five to seven years old. We chose a table and sat between a group of three deaf men who stayed busily engaged in conversation through the meal, and a twinkling-eyed, middle-aged Hispanic guy with a service pit bull at his side. A smiling volunteer greeted us and quickly brought plates heaping with food. The air was redolent of fish and we saw a floppy brown rectangle, a mound of suspiciously glossy smooth mashed potatoes, a tiny bump of coleslaw, and a pile of grayish peas mixed with soft, soggy carrot rounds. A dense under cooked biscuit rested atop the whole thing, earning pride of place perhaps because it was homemade. I looked at the food and dug in, forcing my foodie proclivities down as I lifted fork after fork of the bland mush into my mouth. A young Hispanic man joined us a few minutes later, calling our neighbor Papi and chatting animatedly with him in Spanish. Papi entertained us throughout the meal with stories about the dog. Her toenails were painted bright red. He fed her from his fork, starting with a bite of coleslaw. He scrolled through photos of her on his phone. One showed her dressed in a camouflage tutu, in another she watched TV, and in a third she sported sunglasses. Her name was Tanya, and helps him when he has seizures. He said she was his wife.

A youngish man behind me stood up to take care of his garbage. For the next five minutes he berated the room at large. "Who threw that fish away? There's nothing wrong with that fish!" His dark eyes flashed as he looked around, while pulling up the sleeves of his snow coveralls, and pulling a knit cap down over his tousled black hair. His skin was sun and wind darkened, his lips chapped. "That fish is good food! Who would throw that away?" A female voice muttered in response, but he merely stomped away in disgust. Dolce hates fish but she'd dutifully eaten a few bites in solidarity with the group. I took the abandoned remainder, scraped off the soggy coating and ate the thin flakes of flesh that were revealed.

Papi continued chatting with us and with he newcomer. He told us about a place around the corner called Common Ground where you could get free donuts and coffee. He said you could hang out and watch TV, maybe watch a movie. He recommended it to us, explaining that it was open every day from 12:00-4:00.

By this time the moms were getting in motion. One said "Come on! It's time to go!" and a little voice responded "I want to stay a while and get really warm!" My heart clenched at the thought of the girl needing to stock up on heat calories, wondering if they'd be spending the afternoon outside. But mom didn't want to hear it and she bustled the girl to the bathroom, and eventually toward the door. As she passed by, the littler girl called out her friend "Come on! We're going to Common Ground!" And so I relaxed, picturing her continuing to be warm at least until 4:00.

I continued working at the pile of gluey food in front of me, hating to wast it but full to the point of nausea. Eventually it seemed like we'd stayed long enough and so I threw away our disposables and thanked the folks in the kitchen who had cooked and served us. They wished me a good and day and we went back out into the sparkling snow, saying goodbye to the woman we see on Sundays, who's face looks like it is caving in in the center, so eventually her forehead and chin will meet in the center. I'm not sure how she manages to push her walker through all that snow and slush outside. It must be exhausting.

As we drove home I thought about the contrast of the simple, beautiful breakfast we'd eaten and the Styrofoam pile of calories placed before us a lunch. I thought about the fasting called for as a Lenten practice, and wondered if becoming overly full during this meal could somehow be a form of that practice. I thought about how much we would like to bring our own style of serving into this setting once a month. How we would like to host a family party for this group of womenless men and single moms with kids and gumming old women and middle aged black ladies with red sequined hoodies, and half frozen young men who know the value of a flat greasy block of fish, and friendly, fatherly guys who want to help two middle class women know where to find free donuts.

So tomorrow I'll hunt down the contact information for the program's coordinator. Hopefully she'll let us throw that party once a month.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Out of the Mouths of Babes


The events in Charlottesville, VA and the response out of the Oval Office have left me feeling angry, helpless, and emotionally fraught. It’s hard to get work done, and I’m snippy and less compassionate than those close to me deserve. I woke up this morning hoping I could shake it off and buckle down to the job of trying to make the world a better place, but not having a lot of confidence in my ability to make a difference.

 Then came a private Facebook message from a woman named Judy who bought my book Rumplepimple for her grand children. Some months ago she sent video of the kids reading it, and she’s kept in touch since then. We accidentally sent her an extra copy of the book recently, and she’d planned to send it back.

 Here’s what the message said:

Read the rest of this piece on The Huffington Post...

Friday, March 3, 2017

Arts as Activism Interview

This week I had the pleasure of participating in an interview on the subject of arts as activism. Have a listen.

Friday, November 25, 2016

In Search of Leadessia

Image result for sad woman

(This piece can also be found on the Huffington Post.)

A few months ago, we moved across country to be near our eldest daughter's family. This means that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, initiating the grandkids in the tradition of potato peeling and fruit salad mixing. We feasted on Wednesday rather than Thursday to accommodate the schedule of our daughter's father.

We are renovating our new/old house, or at least making it livable, and so on Thanksgiving Day itself, Dolce worked on the tub while I cleaned kitchen cabinets. When I stopped to rinse a rag, I glanced out the window above the sink and watched a car pull up. This isn't particularly unusual; our home is next to a church, and the alley that leads to our driveway is adjacent to the church parking lot. People come and go all the time. The position of the car was a bit odd because it was so close to our house, but I didn't give it a lot of thought. I had things to do. The grandkids were coming later on, and I needed to get some work done before they arrived.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a young woman standing on the steps. She said "Excuse me, but does Leadessia still live here?"

Her voice was hesitant, as if she already knew the answer.

I told her I was sorry, but that she no longer lived here. I told her the story we heard when we bought the house. We were told that the house had been the home of a woman for many years. We were told she had a husband, and he died. We were told she had another husband, and he also died. We were told that after that, she'd moved into a nursing home here in town.

That is all we knew.

The girl said "She was my grandmother." Her eyes filled with tears, and her speech was halting. "We never talked. She was my stepgrandmother, and the family was estranged. No one talks to that side, but I really loved her. I used to come here all the time when I was little. I thought I'd see if she was here. I had a project I wanted to do with her."

I told her how sorry I was, and that maybe she could find her at one of the nursing homes. I told her we have been marveling about the obvious love the family put into the house through the decades; installing Z-Brick on the walls, paneling over crumbling plaster, puzzling together pieces of trim to cover the top edges of the paneling.

The old place contains several lifetimes of family memories. Now we are hard at work creating our own.

Intending kindness, I asked if she'd like to come in to see what we've done with the house. She declined. Perhaps it was unfeeling to invite her. She came to be with her grandmother. Seeing the house so changed would have underscored what she has lost.

She left, still crying. My heart is still sad.

I hope she is in town for a few days, and can find her grandmother. I hope Leadessia is aware enough to experience the joy of such a visit. I hope for healing and restoration within her family.

The house belongs to Dolce and I now. We are undertaking our own projects, transforming it to fit our tastes and our needs. It is our turn to play with grandchildren on the scarred wooden floors, just as Leadessia did.

Like Leadessia, I am a stepgrandmother. Like that young woman, the children love me.

This Thanksgiving, I am potently aware of being part of history. We are but one page of a huge book of stories that move from generation to generation. I pray for Leadessia, for this young woman, and for our own grandchildren. May the pattern of disruption come to an end.

This week, if Dolce is willing, we will also go in search of Leadessia. And we will tell her this story.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reminder to self: Rejoice.


A few years ago, our pastor asked Diane and I to offer a reflection during Stewardship Month about joy and rejoicing. This video is the result of that request.

It came up today in Diane's Facebook memories, and listening to it refreshed our spirits after this soul-sapping week.

I hope it might refresh yours as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Review: Housewitch


Here's another book review I had the honor to write for Merrimack Valley Magazine. This one was a fun read from the interesting mind of Katie Schickel. I'm reading her second novel, The Mermaid's Secret now, and planning to review it for the Huffinton Post.

If you like to wonder about the things of the world that we can't see with our eyes alone, you'll love her work.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: A Measure of Happiness


I'm way behind in uploading Merrimack Valley Magazine articles, but several author friends have done me BIG favors this week, and the very least I can do to say thank you is post my reviews of their books here.

This is the first of two.

Thanks Lorrie Thomson; not only for your generosity in helping move my debut novel forward, but also for writing books so worth reading.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Not starting over completely, but a lot of work lies ahead...


Today I read my middle grade "reluctant reader" to the grandkids. The reading pointed out a variety of flaws.

Sigh...

It was a worthwhile activity, but also a discouraging one. Whoever thinks writing for kids is easy is just plain WRONG.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Moving Out, Moving On: Recalling The Bittersweet History Of A Beloved Home


Bucket list item achieved! In early May, this piece appeared on the wonderful and inspiring Cognoscenti website. Here's how it opens. Click on the link at the end to continue reading.

A few months ago I cut back the rose bush we planted two years ago. It was bleak midwinter and the spiky branches were dark brown and menacing, twisting high against the porch uprights where I’d wired them in place, hoping to create an arbor of red once summer comes. But prospective buyers wouldn’t understand the potential beauty of the prickly beast reaching toward the front door, and we won’t be here to see summer. We are moving from New England to Missouri, where our four grandchildren live. Life can be hard and grandmothers can help, so we are...

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Why I Finally Know What Truck Day Is (from the Huffington Post)



When my wife Diane turned 50 in 2012, we celebrated by going to a baseball park. In the eyes of the world it would have been a historic game. The park was Fenway. The teams were the Red Sox and the Yankees. The game would have been their first match in Fenway’s 100th year.

I’ve never been a sports fan, so normally this wouldn’t mean much to me. But there I was, living in Massachusetts where the Sox logo shows up on everything from license plates to ice cream boxes. A place where the Sox are not a team so much as they are a...

Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Modern Day Pharisees Make Jesus an Idol (from the Huffington Post)



My last HuffPost piece, Refrocked and Ready: Franklyn Schaefer, LGBTQ Faith Hero, provoked debate on a Facebook Christian Blogger group, which isn’t much of a surprise. A goodly number of Christians refuse to include the handful of scriptures which mention same sex behaviors in the huge batch of Bible verses they discard when making decisions about their own affairs. Some of the debaters were respectful, others disparaging and nasty, proclaiming that my marriage is an abomination, that my soul has been twisted by Satan, and that I use Christ as a puppet.

I love a good debate, particularly on issues related to theology and sexuality. It’s been a passion for some years. But people rarely want to...

Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Refrocked and Ready: Franklyn Schaefer, LGBTQ Faith Hero (from the Huffington Post)


In 2013 Methodist Pastor Frank Schaeffer was removed from ministry for performing his gay son’s wedding six years prior. His book Defrocked was published in 2014. The story is also told in the film An Act of Love, which began screening this month. Frank’s story has particular significance for me as my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary in October. Without ministers who dare to make a difference as he did, Rumplepimple‘s two moms couldn’t be married....

Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What Jesus Said No Longer Applies (from the Huffington Post)



A while back I was called “a special kind of stupid” for sharing the screenshot above in response to a conservative evangelical Christian’s post about the Caitlyn Jenner hype.

In the same thread, another person said I was preaching “the Gospel according to Suzanne” because I suggested that when the Bible doesn’t speak of an issue (in this case, transgender individuals), we must always approach it with love.

Over the same time frame, my children’s picture book, Rumplepimple was launched. This tore open the wound that my relationship with my wife Diane has created with her beloved sister. Rumplepimple is a dog who’s family structure mirrors ours; he has a sister cat and two moms. Diane’s heart has been sick over...

Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more.