Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Good Daily Devotion

Each morning when I sit down at my desk, I begin my day by flipping the page of my daily inspirational desk calendar. As we near the close of this year, the pages diminish, and I realize I'm going to miss this morning dose of reality and contemplation. I haven't purchased a replacement for the New Year.

The message usually resonates deep within, and the accompanying bible verse often enhances the meaning. They've all been good devotions to read, to think about, to live by. One recently really spoke to me, and I thought I would share a portion of it here.

We are named. What we are named is not as significant as that we are named.

Imagine that! Our Creator knows each of us by name.

When I am introduced to a room full of people, I will do good to remember a few of the names when I leave the gathering. It typically takes a few awkward re-introductions before the names stick with me. Yet God knows our names, intimately, since our conception and throughout all the days of our lives, and he never forgets them. Even through our faults and transgressions, our doubts and non-belief, God remembers us and God loves us. The only re-introduction we need is on our side.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


What better way to prepare your heart and mind for Christmas than to visit a live nativity during Advent. Through the ministry of Woodforest Presbyterian Church, visiting and participating in a live nativity can become a reality. All are welcome; please stop by for this magical dose of Christmas that will leave you filled with the Holy Spirit.

The manger takes center stage, where the baby Jesus lies sleeping with Mary and Joseph standing nearby. The donkey, sheep and goats, and even a camel grace the landscape and munch on hay, while shepherds and angels gather to celebrate and see the miraculous birth.

Guests are invited to don shepherd and angel costumes and interact at the stable scene. Costumes are provided, as is a free Polaroid picture of your party with Mary and Joseph at the manger. Cookies, coffee, tea, or hot cocoa is also available. Everything is free and it’s great fun! The tough decision then becomes, which costume to select, the angel or the shepherd.

Both are so important to the Christmas story.

from Luke 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

Woodforest Presbyterian Church is located at 15330 Wallisville Road, Houston, TX 77049, at the corner of Wallisville at Black Rock. The church website address is The live nativity event will be held on Saturday, December 15, at 6:00-8:00 p.m. I invite you to attend!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I've written before how much the Humble Fiction Café (HFC) writer's group means to me, but I'm feeling an overwhelming urge to write once again about this magnificent group of individuals. The talent, intelligence, and personalities of this group are so immense. I truly find myself in awe at times and often wonder how I'm so lucky to have found these people. I get so much from this group.

For one, I am continuously apprised of new technologies. As group members learn about a new gadget, technology, or device that makes life simpler or just more enjoyable, the information is disseminated via e-mail with a volley of e-mail dialog following about the virtues or pitfalls of the product or service. It was through HFC that I learned about blogging, add-ons for Firefox Mozilla, and digital books called Kindle's.

HFC group members are also a tremendous source of information for anyone pursuing furthering their writing. So many tools and techniques have been shared at meetings and through e-mail that it would be impossible to do any type of list justice.

The value placed on the critique I receive cannot be measured. I think sometimes as a writer you become too close to your work. Plotting errors or grammatical mistakes remain hidden on the page until someone points them out. The wonderful HFC group members provide that valuable, truthful, and candid feedback. While I know I have a lot to improve in my writing, belonging to this group has already broadened my skill.

My deepest respect for the members of HFC also, with kudos to everyone that participated in NaNoWriMo last month and completed it successfully. It is an honor to be associated with such talented individuals, and I appreciate both their inspiration and their encouragement. Being associated with HFC gives me the impetus to want to do more. To put aside the excuses and get on with the work.

Best of all, we have fun. Whether it's sharing laughter at a meeting, chortling from emails, or participating in an activity together such as the Renaissance Festival, I truly enjoy the fun and comradeship we share. We are a group that varies in age, background, interests, and more, but with the strong common thread of the written word.

For any writer, wanna-be, aspiring, or otherwise writerly ambitioned person, I highly recommend finding a writer's group. But good luck finding one as grand as mine!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Prayers for a 5-week old

John Wesley Tuttle is undergoing surgery today. He is a 5 week old baby boy that has been experiencing gastro issues with projectile vomiting. While I don't have all the details or the correct medical terminology, I've learned that there is evidently some muscle in/near the stomach that is preventing him from keeping his food down. Your prayers for John Wesley are appreciated.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O gracious and loving Father,

It is with thanksgiving we pray for your many wonderful blessings.

First for your creation.

For the heavens and earth,

The sun, the moon and stars.

For the vast and beautiful Oceans,

Incredible majestic mountains,

Lush landscapes,

And for all living creatures in it.

Thank you for our homes.

For the safety of living in this country,

For the freedoms to live as we choose, without persecution,

And for the comforts of shelter, warmth, and food.

Thanks for our families and friends.

For fellowship,

Laughter, love,

For kindness and a cheerful spirit.

Thanks also for our health and our welfare.

And where these are deficient,

Let us remember that as we walk in faithfulness,

We are not alone,

For you are always with us.

Bless us during this feast

And make our hearts joyous.

Help us remember always your wonderful works.

Praises to God.

Praises for all of God's wonderful works!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Chaos shopping, that's what I call shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, is as much a tradition for me as having noodles on Thanksgiving Day. It supposed to be there, it should happen, but if it's missing for some reason, well, the day does go on.

It is with pleasure I set my alarm on Thanksgiving night for an early morning wake-up. Armed with sales circulars, I quietly get ready and exit the house careful not to wake the slumbering. I used to head out on my own, getting more and more charged with each purchase. Since moving to Texas, now I go out with my sister, and it is fast becoming one of my favorite shopping days ever.

Along with the satisfaction of making a huge dent in my Christmas shopping, I also get to spend quality time with my sister. Even though the stores are mobbed and the lines are long, we find precious time to visit. And we always further enhance the day by dining out for lunch. We talk about our families, our hopes, our worries.

In our fast-paced, too busy lives, if nothing more, our annual day after Thanksgiving shopping trek gives us an excuse and an opportunity to spend time together merrily and guilt-free. After all, we are accomplishing some major shopping efforts while we get together and have our fun. While sales are oftentimes now offered during the whole weekend following Thanksgiving and are certainly offered online, I would hate to see our newly created tradition of chaos shopping end. Here's to another fun and successful year of chaos shopping! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Traditional Thanksgiving Food

It's interesting to hear and compare the various foods that are served traditionally at Thanksgiving. Aside from the typical turkey (roasted or fried or both), mashed potatoes and gravy, we always serve homemade noodles. Many of us opt to use the noodles in lieu of gravy on our mashed potatoes, and what a delicious treat that is.

Our sweet potatoes will vary, some years we get a mashed variety and some years sliced and candied. Our cranberries too differ year to year, but we never use canned jellied cranberry, it is always a recipe with fresh cranberries. And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner without homemade rolls; my mother's are the best!

When we lived in New England, carrot casserole was a Thanksgiving dish tradition. Sliced cooked carrots layered with Velveeta cheese and buttered Ritz cracker crumbs. Yum. I'm not a big carrot fan, but these are wonderful.

I'd love to hear more unusual but traditional foods so please feel free to add yours in the comments.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Thanksgiving Survey

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving season?
Other free polls

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good Reading

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about some of the books I’ve read lately. Here are a few that I would recommend reading.

The Weight of Water
by Anita Shreve
This is an interesting book as it is two simultaneous and interwoven stories, one set in current day and one back in time. Anita seamlessly switches between the stories and keeps the reader engaged. Set in New England, you can feel the cold winters and the storms as the present day heroine, a newspaper photographer, learns more about herself in the search for the truth of a historic double axe murder. The story line is haunting and it pulls at your emotions. Definitely worth reading.

The Desert Crop
by Catherine Cookson
Set in England in the 1880s, this is a story of family conflict, poverty and love. After his father remarries for the promise of future money, Daniel Stewart must give up his dreams of attending university and help out on the failing farm. But giving up university is only the beginning of his sacrifices as he devotes his life to his father’s new wife and their growing family. It takes tragedy to change his life course and open his eyes to true love. Enjoyable, easy to read book.

The Testament
by John Grisham
A really good Grisham book, this story involves an eccentric billionaire and his dysfunctional and greedy families, a missionary heiress, and a lawyer who embarks on a truly remarkable adventure into the jungles of Brazil. The story grabs the reader from the start and doesn’t let go. The imagery is vivid, the characters real. Hard to put down once started.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Excusinator

Something is gnawing at me. It's November. The month of NaNoWriMo, and like last year, I'm not participating.

As a writer, it seems I have a history of holdups. I remember well at a very young age handwriting the start of stories in notebooks. I still have many of those story beginnings. And all the while I would think, if only I had a typewriter, then I could really write.

Then my parents gave me an old manual typewriter, one that actually used to belong to my grandparents. Man, that thing was old. Clack, clack, clack. I can still hear the keys as I typed away more unfinished new stories thinking, now if I just had an electric typewriter, one with a correction key, then I would have everything I needed to be a writer.

What do you suppose happened? You've probably guessed...I received an electric typewriter as a gift. Beautiful thing it was, it had a semi-word processor built in and you could type a limited amount of text into it, modify or correct the text, then push a button for it to type. And type it did. That machine was fast as the blazes, and yes, it had a correction key. I marveled at the invention as I wrote more stories, albeit unfinished, and thought, wouldn't it be great to have a word processor, one that will store my stories so that I don't have to re-type them with every change?

My first one was a DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) model, and I bought it from the company I worked for. Now everything was in place for me to become a writer. The stories grew longer, even journal entries became word processed, and I was happy. Until I got to thinking how nice it would be to have the ability to do research, look up words, and other activities on a home computer, better known as a PC. Yes,
I thought, if I had a PC, then I would be all set to write magnificent stories, even novels.

I've lost count of how many PC's I've owned. I currently have two in my home, neither is more than 4 years old. Both have Word from Microsoft Office, both share a high-speed connection to the internet, both have plenty of memory and hard disk space. They are both technologically in the now, certainly sufficient for any writing career or hobby.

So what's the holdup now you must be thinking? What's left to need in order to write as I've so desired what feels like all my life? Well, this one's a hard one and unfortunately can't be bought at a store. It's time. I'm thinking, time is what I need most now.

I realize at this point, I'm not just a procrastinator…I'm also an excusinator! Every time I turn around I have an excuse why I'm not able to succeed at writing and finishing all the wonderful stories that pop into my mind. While each one of these stumbling blocks has been real, they have also not been something that should delay my writing. In fact, many a great novel was written before the advent of computers, even before typewriters.

So what does all this mean? Other than I do wish great success for my colleagues participating in NaNoWriMo, I also know it's time for me to quit waiting for everything to be perfect. I'm going to start that novel (again), but better yet, I'm going to finish it. Does this mean I'm jumping in to NaNoWriMo mid-month? No. If I thought I hadn't the time to finish a novel in the whole month, how crazy would I be to think I could write it in a partial month? I'll start with baby steps, setting some realistic and attainable goals, and write one chapter at a time.

Now to end on a very positive note, always before when I've created these obstacles in my mind, a solution has always presented itself. I can't wait to see how I can find more time in my days to spend working on my writing.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Good Luck NoNoWriMo Participants!

They're off! It's official! The race has begun!

NaNoWriMo kicked off at 12:01am last night. I wish all of my participating colleagues and friends much luck. These writer friends will have more accomplished in one month than I've been able to achieve… well, ever. I wish everyone a huge success in getting their stories written.

As you have probably surmised, I am not participating again this year. I hope not to regret the decision, but I couldn't find sufficient time in my schedule to write a 50,000 word novel this month, and I didn't want to set myself up for failure. I've been told this exercise is about finding the time. Well, I'm open to that, but we do still have to be realistic with our expectations.

Between running family members to and from work, school, soccer games, soccer practice, karate lessons, gymnastics lessons, gymnastics competitions, writers group meetings, girl scout meetings, and other events such as math club, choir, church, church Christmas play practice, 40 hours or more work each week for my employer and more, I don't have daytimes or one evening in a week free, nor are the weekends much better. I already begin my weekdays with the clock set for 4:30am in order to get done everything that needs my attention.

This isn't written for sympathy, and its intent is not whining. Rather, I am convincing myself of the sanity in this decision and hope to warrant off future feelings of regret.

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo participants!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Bandwagon Here

Recently a friend told me to "jump off the bandwagon." I won't go into the topic, but what bothered me was that she thought I was on a bandwagon at all. Then I got to thinking, why should that bother me and why can't I let it go.

I avoid confrontation and I avoid conflict. My being on a "bandwagon" implies a cause, which means I am exhorting my thoughts and beliefs on others. But I don't do that. How can this be?

My parents are probably the most ethical people I've ever known. They don't lie, they don't steal. They do unto others as they would be done, treating people with kindness and respect. They are not pushy and they are not prejudiced. They are really good people. But there was plenty of conflict growing up, and it was something I never learned to be comfortable with. I always preferred tranquility, at any cost, and I always strived for peace.

It has occurred to me that this is exactly one of my problems in writing. I have trouble creating enough conflict and letting it stir. I'm too quick to resolve the conflict and have life go on, which is (yawn)…boring! At least so for a story.

So thanks to my friend, I will focus more on the conflict in my stories. By being aware, hopefully I can escalate the tension and write stories that are full of emotion and exciting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ready for Split

It's finished! I finally completed my contribution to Split, a short story entitled Enrico's Only Hope. Ready for copyediting and proofing, Enrico's Only Hope survived a computer crash and countless revisions. It has evolved into a story that I'm satisfied with, and one that I believe is as good as I'm going to make it. It's been a long road to completion.

Enrico's Only Hope originated from a picture that I saw on the internet. It showed two men playing pool with a female onlooker, and appeared to be set in the 1950's. This was my starting point. It was truly a delight to bring the characters to life, learn how these two men from differing backgrounds came together and discover why they were playing.

It feels really good to have moved this story from draft stage to final, and I am excited and anxious now to move on to the next project.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


My father-in-law and his wife were ordered to evacuate their home in San Diego. They were not given an opportunity to take anything with them. Please take a moment to say a prayer for Herb and Kathy, my in-laws, and for everyone else effected by this devastating fire. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Today is a special day in our household and I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my husband of fifteen years, I'll call him JT here, a very happy birthday. Here's to a day that is happy, full of pleasant surprises, and loaded with love.

Now here's my public confession…I still love my husband and I feel fortunate to have married him. He's kind, thoughtful, imaginative, creative, funny, and he keeps you on your toes. Sometimes I think I may take all he does for granted, like doing dishes, putting up laundry, vacuuming the floor. Then I'll talk with a friend and mention something JT did and get stopped in mid-sentence with, "Your husband vacuums? Can I rent him?"

JT, you are wonderful and very special and I'm very proud of all you've accomplished. We've been through a lot together and individually, and I've seen you grow tremendously. Thanks for being such a great guy, and for all your efforts in being even a greater guy. I love you dearly. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NaNoWriMo Here I Come, Or Not?

Three weeks and counting. That's how long we have until NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which begins November 1 and ends midnight, November 30. Participants have one month in which to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish. It's an event geared to get writers' writing. And I know it works.

So my dilemma starts now. Do I participate? Or not?

I can't imagine the dedication, focus, and TIME it must require to finish a 50,000 word novel in just one month. I'm already so stretched for time that I sometimes wonder which way is up. I'm setting my alarm clock earlier and earlier each morning just to get in my required hours for my employer. I spend my evenings racing this one to that affair, and that one to this function. And I mean race. We eat fast, drive fast, and sometimes I think I even talk fast. Seems like there is never a minute to spare.

But I've always, always wanted to try my hand at writing a book. If I wait for a good time, a slower time, it just may never happen. We all know that time keeps getting faster and faster the older you get (isn't that true?).

Anyway, that's my dilemma and I have three remaining weeks to sort it out. Three weeks to decide if I want to add to the already so crazy schedule I have timers going off throughout the day reminding me what's next. So, you'll either see me around during the month of November, or not. NaNoWriMo here I come, or not?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

What I Like Most About Church

I missed church this morning. Missing church is not something I do often or take lightly. To help alleviate some of the guilt I am feeling over missing church and my Sunday morning ritual of fellowship and worship, I thought I would spend a few minutes blogging about what I like most about church. My church in particular.

Woodforest Presbyterian Church is very small, and that is exactly one of the things that I like about our church. When you arrive, whether for a morning worship service or an evening bible or book study, you are always greeted with genuine smiles and warm hugs. Everyone knows everyone, and there is truly a sense of community, of family.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.–Matt. 18:20. And so it is. I can truly feel the Lord's presence at my church when we gather together in worship and in fellowship. While the church may be small, it is large in belief.

Right now, in the adult Sunday school class we are studying the Book of Revelation. Another wonderful reason to love our church, this study is fascinating to say the least. Enough so that I will need to reserve more time and space to a more full discussion at a later time. Suffice it to say that we have a magnificent and very knowledgeable leader, one that is able to reference many Old Testament passages that support the Book of Revelation, very interesting questions and conversation, and well, we know the end. God wins!

These are just few things that come to mind when I think of reasons I love my church. There are more. In fact at one point we came up with and published a "top ten list" of reasons to attend Woodforest Presbyterian Church. I don't remember all ten, but I know fellowship and a sense of community was right at the top.

We don't have much information posted on our website, but it you want to take a look, the address is


Friday, September 28, 2007

Wanting What’s Best for Our Kids

Something has been bothering me since the start of this new school year, and I would like to share my concerns and hope to gain a better insight. I also wish to learn what, if anything, can be done to resolve this dilemma.

The fifth grade of the elementary school my daughter attends is not issuing textbooks to the students.

I've had conversations with the teachers, exchanged email with the principal, and have talked with some other school district employees. And even after all these communications, I'm still not quite sure of the reasons behind the decision not to issue textbooks. I can't help but believe this is a cost-saving measure and not a decision based on our children's best interest.

One reason cited for the decision not to issue textbooks to the individual students is that they want to encourage our kids to use additional resources. They don't want our kids relying too heavily on a textbook. They want the kids to know how to look up information outside of a textbook. All fine and dandy, but what is wrong with their knowing how and using a textbook too?

Another reason mentioned is because they are using a new, advanced, hands-on curriculum and the textbooks are outdated. To that… I say buy new textbooks that are up to date.

I've also been told that this decision is so that we can encourage thinking outside the box. That we've raised a society of middle-managers and need to encourage more creative thinking. Great! But I still don't get how not having individual textbooks is going to help that.

Before school started, my sister told me that her child's school was not issuing student textbooks. No individual textbooks, just a classroom set that can be checked out! I was appalled and thought what kind of a school would try to teach students without books? What a surprise it was to learn that our school district is doing this too. Is this a trend? Are there others?

I believe most of us are reasonable people and open to change. We want what is best for our kids, and oftentimes change is for the better. This is one change however that is difficult for me, and I am very curious how other parents feel. Please share your comments. Perhaps together we can uncover the truth and come to a better understanding. Thank you.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Writers Group - A Good Thing?

You bet! But there are people out there, writers I should say, that are not big proponents of participating in writers’ groups. Some say it will stifle your creativity and that you will be so busy critiquing and reading the work of your fellow group members that there won’t be time left to let your own creative juices flow.

Others say you will receive so much critique of your own work that you will be immobilized and afraid to write another word for fear of unkind comments. Some writers, they say, are forever looking for the “bad” in your work, perhaps even to elevate their own writings and musings.

Still others say it is impossible to find a group truly dedicated to writing, and that they are comprised of “wanna-be” writers that are not totally focused. That they won’t provide honest feedback, advice and suggestions that will be helpful simply because it is too part-time for each member.

And still there are other arguments.

But as many arguments as there are against writers’ groups, there are as many or more for writers’ groups. I’m here to say that writers' groups are wonderful!

I personally have participated in a number of groups...o.k., this is my third. But they have all been full of delightfully colorful characters and enriching conversations. Never, however, have I found such a diverse group of dedicated professionals as I have with the Humble Fiction Café.

Where to start...well, talent is a word that comes to mind. Members of our group have published articles, won contests, self-published books, held book-signings and some have written novels. One novel I read (unpublished as of now, but I believe just a matter of getting the book in front of the right person) is as good, and in many cases much better, than many of the books you will find available in any bookstore. We have inspired individuals in our group that can write a short story that makes you say “Wow!” Some are poetic and gifted at finding the exact right words to convey their message perfectly.

Through my experience with the Humble Fiction Café, there have been times I have felt overwhelmed with the talent in our group. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one in the group that can’t get the right words on paper to express what’s in my heart. That my words don’t convey the image in my mind. That I am completely inefficient and a blundering storyteller.

Then I go to a meeting and learn that I’m not the only one experiencing writer’s block. I’m not the only one feeling less talented. I’m not the only one having difficulty in finding the time to write. I go to a meeting and learn that this is all a common thread.

Sometimes I refer to my writers group as group therapy. It certainly feels like that at times, and it has helped me through numerous difficulties, if nothing more than to be around pleasant adults with a common interest sharing stories and tales over coffee and tea. What a fantastic thing writers group is. Not only do I get valuable feedback from outstanding writers that I truly respect and enjoy, but I also get to hear stories and share laughter with an interesting and great group of friends.

My mom has frequently told me I need to go through a 12-step program (long story, and not for here). She’s probably correct in that I would benefit from the meetings, the sharing, and from learning and applying the 12-steps. But I get a great deal from within my group. No, not the 12-steps. But with the belief in a higher power (I call mine God) and the support and encouragement of a terrific group, I am able to forge ahead, remain optimistic, and continually improve my skill at writing.

If nothing else, the Humble Fiction Café motivates, encourages, supports and shares. It is a wonderful writers’ group, and I am proud to be a member. I am sure that each and every one of us will remember with fondness the work poured into our eventually published first book, Split, and I look forward to many more group and individual successes.

My name is Sheryl, and I’m a writer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Making of a Dichotomy

I am proud to be a member of the Humble Fiction Café. We are a diverse group of aspiring writers that meet weekly at the Barnes & Noble in the Deerfield Mall, Humble, Texas. I am continuously amazed at the talent in this group, and I invite you to see for yourself by visiting our blog at There you will find introductions to some of our members, links to their individual blogs, and even some excerpts from work in progress.

Speaking of work in progress, we are currently working on a book that we plan to self-publish entitled Split. This is a book of short stories and poems. Each entry is a part of, or complete dichotomy, two usually contradictory parts or opinions. One of my entries is a short story entitled, Enrico’s Only Hope and the dichotomy is guilt/innocence. Following is an excerpt.

The twelve-story building loomed ahead. One of the first apartment buildings built to replace the former mansions lining the street, its facade was handsome and rich. Hesitating for only a moment, Enrico entered. The elegant and lavishly decorated lobby featured beautiful sculptures, plush oriental rugs and a graceful stone staircase, suggesting a wealth beyond belief. He thought about his own family and friends less than five miles away, how they struggled to make ends meet and lived together, extended families, in tiny two-room tenements.

The young uniformed doorman was humming a tune that vaguely resembled the newest Elvis Presley hit. He stopped humming, cleared his throat and looked Enrico up and down. “May I help you?” The scowl did not go unnoticed.

Enrico unbuttoned his black leather jacket, purposely revealing his raw and bloody knuckles. He clenched, then unclenched his fists. He could pound this punk and show him. He felt his neck getting hot and his palms getting sweaty, it always started like that. “Yeah, you can help me,” he said, “I’m here to see Jayne Lee.”

“And who shall I say is calling? Does Miss Lee know you?”

“I know her,” Enrico snarled as he walked over to where the doorman stood. Standing erect and nearly a foot taller, Enrico looked down and added, “Tell her that Enrico DeMaggio is here to see her.”

Friday, June 29, 2007

Great Summer Reads!

Summer is a great time for reading, right? Well, I agree, but I wonder...what’s so wrong with winter reading, or fall, or spring? Anytime is a terrific time for a great book in my opinion, and here are some of my recent finds – all wonderful (of course) for summer reading!

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Absorbing from the time you pick up the book until you put it down. A story about a calm and quiet father, Daniel, who had an angry and criminal youth; his wife, who becomes dissatisfied with how predictable her husband has become; and their daughter, who grows up unnoticed before their eyes and suffers date rape and subsequent consequences. In the story, Daniel is a comic book writer. Immersed throughout and corresponding to the story is the comic that Daniel is working on, depicting his hero rescuing his daughter from hell. Vivid description throughout, easy read.

Jaclyn's Ghost by Dorlana Vann (not yet published)

This is a captivating story, and one that I hope finds a publisher soon! Written by Dorlana Vann from my writer’s group, the Humble Fiction Café, it is a story about a murdered high fashion model, Jaclyn, who becomes caught in the spirit world. She has 48 hours to live as a ghost as she tries to solve her murder. Enlisting the help of a handsome and intriguing more experienced ghost, as well as a living psychic who can hear and speak to ghosts, Jaclyn sets out on an eye-opening adventure. Dorlana is a great storyteller. Link on to her blog to read Chapters 1-4 and a synopsis at

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Certainly not a new book, but one I’ve just gotten around to reading and what a pleasure. It’s dynamic and moving - it actually brought me to tears at the end. It’s a story about Mitch spending his Tuesdays with a former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, after Morrie was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Morrie taught Mitch valuable lessons on life that we can all learn from. Truly a memorable book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Black Rose

by Sheryl Tuttle

The book sat on the second shelf from the top in the mystery section of Barnes & Noble. Titled Adam’s Apple and written by Loren Raye, the white jacket cover with raised black lettering pictured a deep red apple cut with a knife dripping blood. The inside cover provided an exciting, but brief, description of the story. The back flap of the jacket contained a few details about the author; birthplace, birth year, current residency, and the fact that this was the author’s first published novel.

Loren Raye Nelson stared at the book on the shelf. She hesitated to touch it for fear that she would wake up to find it was all a dream. How long she had worked and dreamed of getting her story published, even through rejection after rejection. Yet she persevered, and here was the proof. She had done it. Her novel was published and sitting on the bookstore shelf ready to be purchased and read.

Picking up the book gently, Loren looked down the aisle to be sure no one was watching. It felt good holding it in her hands. The cover complemented the story well with its picture and colors, story description, and excerpts. She skimmed the pages and tried to imagine it unfamiliar. Impossible. With the time and efforts she had placed in the writing, and then editing, it felt like her child.

Loren shut the book, took a deep breath, and closing her eyes, she hugged the book to her chest. Could life ever be better than this? Loren thought not.

As she opened her eyes, Loren saw someone turn into her aisle and quickly duck away. Or was it her imagination? She hadn’t been sleeping well in all of her excitement.

Wondering if she had imagined the person, Loren walked to the endcap and looked around. There wasn’t a soul in sight, except for the cashier in the front of the store. I really must get more sleep, she thought, as she walked back to the shelf where the book belonged.

Loren reached up to place the book back on its shelf, then froze. In its place sat a single deep red rose. A black rose.

* * * * *

Loren remembered a time long ago. His name was Vincent Jones, and they had not been dating long. After a lovely dinner at Churrascos in Houston, Vincent had walked Loren to her apartment.

“Dinner was wonderful,” she’d said. “Thank you. And thank you for the rose too. I’ve never seen one this deep red before. It’s almost black.”

“It’s called a black rose. They’re not very popular, but it’s my favorite color rose. I hope you like it,” he’d said.

She’d invited him in for a cup of coffee. Somehow the conversation had turned to their work, and what they had both dreamed of becoming. She had confessed to him that she had always wanted to write and hoped to someday write a novel. She’d even told him she wouldn’t be using her last name in her work, but rather her first and middle name as a pen name. He’d said he would always watch for her books.

If she had only known then how possessive and insecure Vincent was, perhaps she could have saved herself a lot of torment. The restraining order had been a joke; it didn’t do a thing to help, so in the end, Loren had moved from Houston to feel safe again. Victorious, Loren gradually got back her life, a life without fear.

Loren shuddered. She hadn’t thought about Vincent in a long time, but the rose forced back the memories. She had never seen a black rose before her relationship with Vincent, or since. Who had put the rose on the shelf, she wondered?

Loren stood on trembling legs. She looked around. No one was there. The large bookstore suddenly felt small, tight, as though all the air had been removed and a heavy weight put in its place. Loren became dizzy as she tried to breathe.

Get a hold of yourself, she thought, it’s a rose on a shelf and there is bound to be a logical explanation. Loren quickly left the store and fled to the safety of her Honda Accord. She turned on her car radio; the music relaxed her. The rose had to have been on the shelf all along she decided. Someone must have laid it down to pick up a book, hopefully my book, she thought, and she drove home.

The next morning the alarm clock startled Loren. Volume blaring, a Spanish announcer talked excitedly. She reached over to shut the radio off. She hated Spanish music. It reminded her of Vincent; they had vacationed together in Mexico. He woke her up in the middle of the night every night during that vacation so they could “discuss” where they were in their relationship. That was the beginning of their end. Loren resolved to get a new clock radio, as the reception on this one had a habit of fading in and out and sometimes even pulling the signal from a completely different station without her touching the dial.

* * * * *

Loren rushed as she had several errands and still wanted to make an afternoon aerobics class. Pulling into Jiffy Lube for an overdue oil change, Loren was glad for the early start to her day. No lines, and an open bay to service her immediately. An older model, dented, silver Ford Ranger with bumper stickers plastered all over pulled up to the bay behind Loren’s Accord, creating the beginning of what would probably be a continuous line of cars and trucks waiting for oil changes today. Just made it, she thought, and hoped the rest of her day went as well.

The grocery store was much busier, still Loren completed her shopping in less than 45 minutes. Hurrying in hopes to make the gym, Loren almost crashed the grocery carriage into the same silver Ford Ranger she saw at Jiffy Lube, and then noticed it again while in line at the car wash. She wasn’t sure, but she thought the same truck was in the parking lot when she was leaving the gym later after her aerobics class. It sent a cold chill down her arm.

On Monday after work, Loren grabbed the mail and dropped it onto the kitchen table. She was tired and changed into a comfortable sweat suit. After a few chores, she returned to go through her stack of mail.

Junk. Apply for your no interest credit card today.

Junk. Call today and receive free roundtrip airfare anywhere in the U.S.

Junk. Subscribe today and get 25% off the cover price.

Postcard. It was a solid black glassy postcard with the words, “Boston at Night” printed in the upper left corner. Wondering who the card was from, Loren turned it over and read:

Dearest Loren,

The book was great. I hope you enjoyed the rose. I guess dreams really can come true. I’m working on making mine come true too.

Loren shrieked and dropped the card.

Vincent had always liked to play riddles and guessing games. He could be evil, she knew, and it would be just like him to send something like this. He was crafty and devious, and would take pleasure in spooking her. The agony he had caused her after their breakup had supplied many of the ideas for her book. But how could Vincent get a Boston postcard? They certainly didn’t sell them in Houston. Loren checked the postmark to see where it was mailed from. There was no postmark.

Grabbing her pocketbook, Loren headed to the gym. She needed to get out of the house, to work out and clear her head. Too many weird things had been happening and she didn’t feel comfortable being alone at home.

The Waist Basket was located in an L-shaped strip shopping center. The gym was nestled in the middle where the two sides met, and the front of the center had pillars evenly spaced its entire length. Parking could be a bit of a problem. Not that there wasn’t enough parking, just that there was usually no parking up front, and patrons of The Waist Basket frequently got a second workout when leaving the gym in the walk to get to their car.

It was a grueling workout; the aerobics instructor merciless. Loren was glad, nonetheless, that she had decided to come, and she didn’t mind the walk to her car. It was a crisp, clear night and she loved the fresh air. She felt energized after her workout, and more confident.

Suddenly Vincent was walking right beside Loren. It was as though he’d materialized from thin air. Loren realized he must have been waiting behind a pillar, and she cursed herself for not being more careful.

“Wait up, Loren. I just want to talk,” Vincent said. Loren had actually picked up the pace, wanting to get under one of the lights that illuminated the parking area.

“Vincent, what are you doing here?” Loren stopped and turned, facing her intruder. She had finally reached a major success in her life, and Vincent had found a way to foil her happiness. Here he was. Again.

“I saw your book. I told you I’d always watch for it. Anyway, that’s how I found you. I’ve been looking since you left, you never even said goodbye.”

“This is unbelievable. You came all the way from Texas to say goodbye?”

“Oh, no. Not to say goodbye. I want you back, Loren. And I intend to have you.” He bent in as if to kiss her.

“Vincent, you’re scaring me. We broke up a long time ago. Let’s not go that route again.”

“I don’t want to go our old route either, Loren. I’ve changed and I want you back. I’ll give you plenty of time, you’ll see. It’ll work this time.” Vincent handed Loren a black rose he had been holding behind his back.

“Please, Vincent. Don’t do this. I don’t want this rose, any more than I wanted that rose at Barnes & Noble. You have to believe me.”

“Good, so you did get the rose I left for you at the bookstore. I was going to talk to you then, but I chickened out.”

“You scared me to death. And you’re scaring me now. This isn’t normal.”

Loren could see his nostrils flare, and she knew she’d hit a nerve. She remembered that his mother had several nervous breakdowns, and as barbaric as it sounded, had even received shock treatments. His brother had been convicted of a heinous crime, the details unknown to Loren, and now lived in a psychiatric ward of a state run hospital. Loren had never met Vincent’s father; he had died when Vincent was a baby. He’d been 63 years old when Vincent was born, nearly 30 years his wife’s senior.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go.” Loren turned on her heels and bravely began walking towards her car, hoping Vincent would not follow.

“This isn’t over, Loren,” Vincent yelled. “I’ll see ya around.”

Trembling, Loren started her car as she watched Vincent walk towards a silver Ford Ranger.

Her memories of constant fear, how she always had to look over her shoulder, and Vincent’s obsessive behavior were revived, and she tossed and turned throughout the night. Having barely slept, the alarm blasted Loren into wakefulness with a Spanish cha-cha playing on the radio. She threw the clock across the room, and then grudgingly got up and ready for work.

The girls at the office invited Loren out for a drink. A welcome change of pace, Loren accepted without hesitation. After a few drinks, the girls decided to head to a club with dancing and urged Loren to go along. Loren declined. She couldn’t wait to get home and curl up with a good book.

It was later than usual for Loren to get home, and the outside porch light was not on. In the darkness, Loren struggled with her key in the door. She finally got the door opened and immediately flipped on some lights. Pouring herself a large glass of water, she noticed the smell of cigarettes and silently cursed all the smokers in the bar.

Loren read nearly every night before she went to bed. Her favorite reading chair was in the TV room, although she rarely turned on the TV. It was a blue chair, worn, but big and fluffy. Loren would tuck her legs under and curl almost into a ball. This is where she headed with book in hand.

Oddly enough, Loren continued to smell cigarettes. The smell did not seem to be dissipating at all. She sniffed her blouse. Weird. The smell didn’t seem to be coming from her blouse. That’s when she noticed the burned cigarette butt smoldering in her incense burner.

Vincent had always been a heavy smoker.

Loren became acutely aware of her breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. Quietly. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine where she had left the cordless telephone and realized it was probably still sitting on its cradle upstairs. Calmly, Loren stared at the pages of her book, trying to look as though she were reading. Inside, her heart pounded.

A weapon. She had to think of something she could use in the room as a weapon. She had the book; she could hit him over the head with the book. Right. The vacuum was in the closet. Maybe she could use the wand like a baseball bat and hit him with that. Of course that would make too much noise getting out, he’d know she wasn’t reading and might make his move. Completely out of options, Loren didn’t know what to do.

Then Vincent waltzed right into the TV room, as though he owned the place, smoking another cigarette and with a drink in hand.

“Worked a little late, didn’t you?” he asked.

Loren stared at Vincent. She didn’t dare move a muscle.

“I would have asked you out to dinner so we could talk, but I figured you’d just refuse. So, I let myself in. You really should get a deadbolt, ya know.”

“There isn’t anything to talk about, Vincent. We said our good-byes years ago.”

“You may have said goodbye, but I didn’t.” Vincent pounded his fist on the coffee table. The wrinkles at the bridge of his nose were furrowed deep with anger.

“You’ve been in here before, haven’t you,” Loren asked thinking about the Spanish radio station set on her alarm clock, and wanting to change his mood.

“Yea. I set your alarm clock to play our music. Spanish music. Remember what a wonderful time we had in Mexico? Remember how we would get up in the middle of the night and talk for hours?” Vincent’s face lightened and the frown lines smoothed.

Loren knew he was sick; she just didn’t realize how sick. She thought that her fleeing Vincent years before had ended his obsession. She had simply escaped it. Now she would have to run away again, this time having learned that she could never reveal her whereabouts. She felt sorrow in that she would never be able to write using her name again. Vincent would watch for that. And she was saddened to have to leave the life she had built.

As though Vincent could read Loren’s mind, he said, “Don’t be thinking about running off again. I’m watching you. Real close, this time.”

“Vincent, I’m tired. Could we please talk about this some other time?”

“Some other time? You are kidding, aren’t you? I didn’t come all this way for nothing, Loren. I want you back. You know how much you mean to me. Just because you left before doesn’t mean my feelings stopped.”

“I can’t believe this is happening. This isn’t right. You talk like it was just yesterday that I left. It was 10 years ago, Vincent. Your feelings must be gone. I know mine are. But they’re being replaced with a new feeling, and it’s disgust.”

Swiftly and smoothly, in one continuous fluid movement, Vincent lunged from his seat on the couch. The table lamp cord was in his hand, the plug-in snatched effortlessly from the wall and the lamp ripped from the cord. She didn’t even have time to move, and the cord was wrapped taut around her neck.

“I don’t like you talking to me like that. You’ve pissed me off now.” The veins in Vincent’s neck protruded and his eyes bulged wide like that of a madman.

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, but you’re being your mule-headed, selfish self right now. Damn you,” he said as he tightened the cord.

Loren began choking. She instinctively put her hands to her neck, trying to loosen the cord. She felt panic and fear. She waved her hands frantically, voluntarily convulsing. Then she went limp as though she were dead.

It wasn’t a good performance, but it was enough. Vincent dropped the cord he held around Loren’s neck.

“You fake,” he said, turned, and ran. Loren thought she heard him mumble, “Thank God,” as he left the house. She called the police, and they filled out a report labeling it a domestic disturbance.

Vincent returned early the following morning, just as the sun was rising. He knocked on the door. When Loren didn’t answer, Vincent expertly picked the lock and let himself in. He looked softer, less agitated.

“Loren, I did some serious thinking last night. About us. About me,” he started. “I’d like to start by saying I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry, I would never want to hurt you.

“I’ve seen my mother in and out of mental institutes since I was a kid. My brother lives in a hospital, and I don’t have a dad. I don’t want to end up dead or in a hospital somewhere like them. Last night, I may have scared you. But I scared myself worse.”

Vincent swallowed hard. “What was I thinking to let myself into your home uninvited? Hell, not just your home, your life.”

What about trying to kill me, you asshole, Loren thought, but remained silent.

“I keep thinking about the other day, when you said I wasn’t normal. That scared me, ya know. They say mental illnesses can run in the family.”

Loren remained quiet, letting Vincent continue.

“Anyway, I kind-of scared myself into realizing that I can’t stay here. I’m afraid of what I might do.”

Vincent stood up, walked to Loren, and then hugged her tight. Then he turned to the door. “Well, goodbye, Loren.”

Loren firmly closed the door behind him.

Jubilation. Loren felt like dancing. She’d escaped without having to flee. She felt triumphant and an overwhelming sense of relief. She wouldn’t have to give up her life after all. She wanted to jump up and down and shout hooray.

Loren walked back to her reading chair. There, where her book had lain, was a black rose. When did he put the rose there? She didn’t know, and she didn’t care. But one thing became crystal clear. She couldn’t dance, and she couldn’t jump up and down, shouting hooray. Vincent was sick and he could still be there, if not today, tomorrow. Watching. Waiting. He’d won after all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

George Washington Prayer

Following is a prayer that was forwarded through email. It stated that the author was George Washington. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but what a lovely prayer.

“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb and purge my heart by the Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thy son, Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too Busy?

Are we too busy to enjoy or attain true quality of life?

It seems to me that most people (myself included) live such busy, hectic, scheduled lives that we forego true quality in life. We’re busy with the job, the kids activities, volunteer work, meetings, paperwork, scheduling, shopping, bills, email, appointments, cleaning, chores, errands, clipping coupons, commitments, obligations, phone calls, internet searches...the list goes on and on. We don’t have time in a day for the things that really matter. For most of us, this is repeated day after day to the point that we don’t take time for the important things in life for days, weeks, sometimes even months.

To fix this emptiness, we experience and chase after short-lived feelings of euphoria. It’s great to get new clothes, new shoes, a new book or magazine. We feel ecstatic about our new cars. We love our latest electronics and gadgets, and we keep looking for more and more features with each emerging technology.

Even our entertainment has upsized to keep up with our growing and insatiable appetites for more. Remember the days of the local county fair and their quickly constructed rides? Today we look for super roller coasters in permanent parks with loops and twirls, enough to give us that needed thrill.

Everything is bigger, better, faster. But are we truly better-off?

I think back to some of my fondest memories...spontaneously sitting and talking with Aunt Janet and Uncle Billy after the annual Christmas party one year, looking into my newborn baby daughter’s face for the very first time, and running outside sock-footed on a freshly fallen snow.

None of these memories required a new purchase. None of them required a gadget or the latest technology. None of these were planned activities. None of them even required money. It’s not purchases, gadgets, technology, a full schedule, nor money that make up life’s most precious memories. Rather, it is time. Time to spend with one another, time to spend in love, and time to spend admiring the beauty God blessed us with here on Earth.

Time is limited as we all know, but true happiness doesn’t result from filling your time, but rather in allowing yourself free time to live life.