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.

video

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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Women’s Right to Vote as the Downfall of Democracy (from the Huffington Post)



Yesterday I witnessed a five minute diatribe about why ‘Merica needs Donald Trump as president, from a soft-spoken elderly southern gent. I tried to listen with as open a mind as possible, but that didn’t last long.

The poor dude was essentially in mourning, saying that Trump can’t win the election because women (“wimmin”) control the vote. According to him, the only thing wimmin are concerned about is...

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tiny Dog Makes Huge Impact (from the Huffington Post)



Meet Juno the Facebook sensation, and her inspiring mom Deborah Young. The duo’s online and real-world work supports Kane’s Krusade, Pet Rock Festival, the Cold Noses Foundation, Sweetpea Animal Shelter, Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog, Paws for a Cause, ending Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) and many other causes.

Tell us about Juno and the work you do together.

As far as Juno knows, she’s a little person, not a dog. During a visit to grandma in the hospital, I quickly realized that...

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

Monday, February 15, 2016

Author Holly Robinson on Her Latest Book: Chance Harbor (from the Huffington Post)



I live in Massachusetts, and I sometimes wonder what it is about the region that makes it such a fertile place for writers. The first year I lived here I went to dinner in my small town and was seated next to Andre Dubus III for crying out loud. I’ve been blessed to become friends with a number of local authors, such as the generous and wickedly funny Holly Robinson. Being a dog lover herself, she sweetly agreed to write a blurb for Rumplepimple‘s back cover. Holly’s latest book came out October 6, and she was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with me about it.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What Makes ‘Traditional Marriage’ Traditional? (from the Huffington Post)



Given all the Kim Davis hoopla, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “traditional marriage,” and wondering how the concept of “traditional” is being applied. Normally the term is related to time and frequency of a practice. If something has been around a long time and repeated over and over again, it becomes a tradition.

And so I decided to look at the Christian “one man, one woman” argument, commonly known as “traditional marriage,” from this perspective. And oops! I immediately found that...

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

International Scavenger Hunt Raises Funds for Terrier Rescues (from the Huffington Post)



Sarah Bennett, Waffle’s mom, has grown used to the dog’s preternatural skill at finding abandoned balls, but last year a friend had a great idea. Fellow terrier mom Sally Grist suggested asking Waffle fans to donate £1 to Terrier SOS for every ball Waffle found in a single week. The contest resulted in an amazing worldwide response and the duo (plus canine companions) raised £4,575. This year Grist and Bennett put their heads together to come up with another way to help abused, abandoned, or neglected terriers, and Waffle and Barley’s Sponsored Treshur Hunt was born.

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Will You Walk With Me? An Interview With Evangelical LGBT Supporter Kathy Baldock (from the Huffington Post)


For several years, I’ve been collecting materials for a book which offers a Biblical defense of same sex relationships. As part of that process, my wife and I have met many interesting people, including Kathy Baldock, founder of Canyonwalker Connections and author of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community.

We connected with Kathy recently in hope that she would review my children’s illustrated story book Rumplepimple, because it features two moms. I listened to Kathy on a radio interview, and found myself mesmerized by...

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Bigender God (from the Huffington Post)

My wife and I have been thinking a lot about gender lately.

An article my daughter posted pointed out the layers of complexity of the issue which Caitlyn Jenner brought to America’s door step. Women have been working for generations to not be labeled as simply soft, vulnerable, lipstick-slathered corset wearers. For over a century we’ve been trying to get society to accept that having the equipment necessary to grow babies doesn’t mean women should be prevented from voting, or get paid less, or be kept out of scientific circles because of our emotional mushiness and our distracting sexiness.

Meanwhile, here comes Caitlyn, posing in undergarments and talking about...

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Warthog Love

Writers write to be read, and hearing about people who enjoy their work makes all the days of questioning and doubt absolutely worth it.

Most of us don't get to see a warthog listening to a reading. But I'm special.


We've been following the antics of Wallace the Warthog, Toby the Wire Fox Terrier, and their animal friends on Facebook for a few months, and today this post showed up. (You can follow them too by clicking here.)

This picture renders me speechless:


Smiling ear to ear. Thanks Jeru.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Season of Mary, Spotless Mother of God (from the Huffington Post)



Advent is the season of Mary, when we wait with her as the child forming in her womb readies for his unveiling. And each year a number of questions come up, such as: Is Mary the mother of God? Is she without sin?

These are enigmas shrouded in mystery, and lead to confusion on multiple fronts.

There is the chicken and egg problem: how could someone be the mother of the person who created her? There is the time and space problem: how could the infinite be “born” of the finite? There are multiple theological problems: how could the holiness of God be present within the confines of a sinful nature? How could a mere human presume to claim such an important role over God Himself?

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A first for me. A happy first.


Over the past spring and summer, Charlie made friends with a tribe of neighborhood youngsters.

I gave the eldest girl a copy of Rumplepimple a month or so ago when she and a friend came by on their bikes and stopped in the yard to say hello and receive his enthusiastic kisses. When I saw her a few weeks later and asked if she liked it, she beamed and nodded, and the friend accompanying her announced "She read it SEVEN times!"

Yesterday Charlie and I went for a walk. Three neighborhood kids ran toward us as they often do when we near their corner. The crew included two second graders and the fourth grader who'd received the book. When the trio arrived at where we stood waiting, bending down to greet the jiggling and jumping Rumplepimple, the younger girl piped up "I want a copy of Rumplepimple!". Not to be left out, the young lad cried "Me too!"

Charlie went through his usual wiggle, wag, jump, and kiss routine. The kids described the movie they were planning to make, featuring Halloween costumes and zombies. They detailed their plans while petting Charlie, and asking me questions.

"Did he really pee on that kid's shoe?"

"Did he really take that blanket?"

As we talked about the book, the fourth grader said "Oh, yeah, and my teacher loved it!" She continued on to say that he'd read it to the class.

That was a first for me. To have a child be so excited about a book I wrote that she wanted to take it to school was exciting enough. But to have a teacher read it to a group of kids?

It was a very happy first.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Feeling the need to philanthropize? Look no further.

This week my HuffPost pieces ranged from celebrity dogs to Kentucky clerks and the biblical creation story.

Celebrity Canine Gives Back



A Note to Kim Davis about Adam and Steve




Call me multi-hued, call me multi-faceted, call me crazy. But just call me (if you are an agent, or a philanthropist who's been looking for a Jane of all trades to sponsor).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Unicorns and dead teenagers


I was profoundly moved by a young man I met on Facebook a few weeks ago. He'd posted in a group of LGBT people of varying faiths, pouring out his sorrow about what he witnessed at the Jerusalem Pride parade.

Here's my post about him and about the same violence that simmers here in the United States:

From Victorious Unicorn to a Dead Teenager in a Single Week.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Meet Gizmo, Healer of Hearts


Writing Rumplepimple has connected us to amazing people that we'd otherwise never had the honor and pleasure to meet. The amazing Gizmo is just one example. (OK, so he's not a person. But you get the idea.)

Rumor has it that Rumplepimple and Gizmo may have a chance to meet snout to butt soon. Can't wait.

The interview below recently appeared on HuffPost's Good News page. It's hard to believe how much this human/dog duo is accomplishing.

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Meet Gizmo, a 3.5-pound wonderdoglet on a mission to change the world one doggy hug at a time. I connected with Jen Adams (Gizmo's human) while getting the word out about my picture book Rumplepimple. We appeared on the same episode of The Pet Radio Show, and as I learned more, I began to wonder how such a wee creature could make such a huge difference.

The "Gizmo's Frens" Facebook page has almost 80,000 followers. Why do you think he has become so popular?

Truthfully, I am shocked at the size and diversity of Gizmo's following. They come from all walks of life, from all over the world, and they are all there to share a sense of kindness and good will. Maybe people first respond to the same thing I did: his lil' face and his excellent ears. I think when they learn what he's about and see his message, they want to be a part of making a positive difference.

You two do amazing work in all sorts of venues. Tell us how you got started.

 Before Gizmo found me, I lost the love of my life suddenly. Gizmo, with his gentle, loving nature, facilitated a real transformation for me. I went from a grieving, lost soul who was full of self-pity to having this amazing little creature whom I knew could change lives other than my own. Gizmo forced me to step outside of myself and help others, and, in so doing, he channeled healing in me.

During the very early stages of our journey, Gizmo exhibited a keen sense of people's emotions. He would seek out people who were having a tough time, and climb into their laps or lie beside them, as if to say, "Listen. I see you are hurting, and I will help you, ok? Cuz we're frens."

That being said, I just... began! Wherever there were folks who needed help in our community or people who were doing kind things, I showed up with the Giz. When people would say, "Who's that dog?" I would just say, "Oh wow, you don't know Gizmo? He's here to help!" In acting like he was a public figure, and believing that he was, so he became!

Gizmo became a certified therapy dog with Paws for Friendship, Inc. when he was two years old. We started doing visits at an assisted living facility, and it just grew from there. Today we visit hospitals, schools, veterans, nursing homes, juvenile facilities, group homes, mentoring programs, and more. We even traveled to Wisconsin when a mentoring program for teen girls asked if Gizmo could come help them deliver Christmas cookies to veterans. I figured, "Why not?" So away we went!

Gizmo also visits Hartford Public Library and its branch libraries as a Paws to Read certified reading assistance dog. Being a special education teacher, I wanted to help kids gain confidence in reading.

In observing Gizmo's interactions with people in need at the facilities where we visit, I realized that, in addition to animal assisted therapy, crisis counseling is another passion I never knew I had! So last September I started my Master's in Human Service/Counseling - Crisis Response and Trauma. Gizmo became the first known Community Emergency Response Team therapy dog in Connecticut. He went through the training with me, and is now available to visit storm shelters, sit with families during search and rescue situations, etc. when CERT is activated. Most recently, Gizmo passed his field evaluation for an amazing group called K9 First Responders (K9FR), a Critical Incident Mental Health Support organization. K9FR Teams bridge the gap between a traumatic event and the connection to mental health services. The goal is to jump-start the process of restoring a person's emotional and cognitive equilibrium through the animal/human bond.

Gizmo visited the state house in June! Tell us a bit about how that happened.

I donated a therapy visit with Gizmo to a charity auction. The woman who won the visit is a staffer for a legislator. She asked if Gizmo could come visit the House of Reps and Senate. We were humbled to oblige, and we were welcomed so warmly by all the Reps and Senators! As the universe would have it, our visit occurred on the day before Senate was slated to vote on a bill that had just passed through the House of Reps that would make therapy dogs more accessible to children in crisis in Connecticut. The following day the Senate voted unanimously to make the bill a law!

Why are you so committed to making a difference?

I decided life is a choice. We can live in misery and bitterness over crappy stuff, or we can focus on creating happy stuff. Throughout this journey, I have discovered an amazing relationship with God (or a Higher Power, the Universe, whatever anyone chooses to call it) - not so much in a religious sense, but in a spiritual sense. I believe it's what He wants for all of us... to help and support each other however we can, and to love. Truly, what other reason is there for being here?

You frequently offer words of inspirational wisdom on Gizmo's Frens Facebook page

The inspiration is simply what he has taught me through his encounters with people in need, including myself. All of his posts about forgiveness, hope, faith, love, kindness, living each day to the fullest, etc. came from his heart and transformed my life, and hopefully maybe the lives of others.

Do you think Gizmo knows he is a hero and a celebrity? He looks pretty humble.

Gizmo once sought out a random woman. He sat at her feet and looked up at her. She introduced herself as an animal communicator! She said Gizmo told her he knows he is important, but he does not know why. I think I will keep it that way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Curve Magazine's Mr. Mom blogs about Rumplepimple.


We were so honored to have Rumplepimple featured in Mr. Mom's blog for Curve Magazine!

If you aren't familiar with it, Mr. Mom, AKA Lyndsey Darcangelo, offers insights into parenting with heart, depth, and intelligence. Lyndsey is a freelance writer who is in the midst of finishing up a YA novel. You can read more about her work at her website:

http://www.lyndseydarcangelo.com/

Thanks Lyndsey, for sharing your family life and for including Rumplepimple in this post about diverse books!