A Cautionary Tale

SALINA, KANSAS – A funeral had caused my sister and I to meet in Dallas. She had flown in from Denver and I was finishing up the last leg of a very long road trip, cutting the last week out completely. Exhaustion had hit as we walked out of the burger joint in Salina, Kansas, ready to make the final approach to Denver. A jean-clad stranger with gray stubble walked over to us.

“Would you come over here? I want to show you something.” Wanting to get home at this point, I resisted at first when he motioned us forward. That and the fact I’d never seen him before.

I must have looked dubious because he said, “No, please, I want your opinion.” His nervous eyes troubled me. “I can’t decide if I should call the authorities or not. They said notify them if we see anything suspicious.”

We walked with him a short distance and then stared in the direction he was pointing. 50 yards away I could see what appeared to be a frail man who’d tucked a rolled up blanket tightly against the seam of where the building meets the concrete parking lot. He knelt in a heap, his back to us, facing the brick wall. My first thought was he was seeking privacy in the worst way by making himself appear as small as humanly possible. However, he didn’t realize from where we were, he was on stage in plain sight.

I stared for a few seconds, then turned to the stranger beside me. In as gentle a voice as I had, I said, “He’s praying.” I hesitated. “He’s not hurting anyone – he’s just praying.” I paused and turned to return to my car.

“Yeah, but they pray before they blow somethin’ up,” the man said.

There may have been a slight pleading in my voice as I turned back to him “He’s just praying.” As I turned to go, the man snorted, “Well, you know, I pray.” But his attitude was defiant and to whom he was speaking, I wasn’t sure.

A few hours later I dropped my sister at her house and headed home. But for the life of me, I couldn’t stop that scenario replaying over and over. It had taken up permanent residence with me. And here’s what troubled me.

It’s true, there is an infinitesimal chance that the man could have been preparing to light up the sky. But as it so happened, nothing happened. The man was simply praying. I checked arrests for that Thursday and recognized no one. And, Salina, Kansas is still there.

It is true we live in a time where we must be cautious. We are inundated with news stories that create fear, much of it unwarranted. Still, scared people create fear, causing others to overreact and ostracize those who look and sound and pray differently than we do.

I believe we must hold to a simple fact.

We the people of these United States descended from people arriving on our shores seeking freedom. People who spoke no English, people who were poor, who came here for religious freedom. Caution is important, but common sense has to prevail in the end or we become someone we may not recognize.

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Fairhope, Alabama

I sit here at the corner Page and Palette, Inc. bookstore coffee shop enjoying the local color. Two guys on computers hold down a long bench near the wall, and a table of seven friendly regulars discuss events of the nation.

Modern two blade ceiling fans twist in the air, two adorable young women behind the open counter sell mostly regular coffee, but crank out any kind of latte you want, and to the left is the double entry to the amazing, home-grown, independently thriving bookstore, Page and Palette, Inc.

I am in Fairhope, Alabama, where I am renting an adorable bungalow while I wait for the arrival of the final proof of my second book. After I give my final approval, Midnight Redemption will be available for order. Both paperback and e-book.

Why did I come to Fairhope?

Yep, book 3 coming up!

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Sitting with new friend Ann Corcoran in Fairhope. Reminds me of Paris! And much more relaxing!

Midnight Redemption

midnight-redemption-thumb-smallAmidst a backdrop of exquisite beauty, South Africa holds a dark secret while  Annabelle Chase, an American crime reporter, joins the Limpopo Task Force to end a string of bizarre murders. Malamulele detective N. F. Baloyi is bent on solving the murders, but Annabelle questions his commitment. After all, Baloyi’s own brother is one of the killers.

“Now, I glanced at the fresh crime scene, and it was clear who’d found the body. Standing next to two cops was a bony kid in a ripped Doors t-shirt. Where had he come across a Doors t-shirt way out here in the bush? Baloyi approached them, nodding to the kid and the officers, as another patrol pulled up. Within minutes, a squad of cops was outlining trees and bushes with yellow crime scene tape cordoning off the victim who was lying under a black tarp. At first glance, the yellow tape against the green boughs reminded me of the Christmas tree at Denver homicide, which would be a traditional fir wrapped in crime scene tape. But I was a long way from Denver now, and there was nothing festive about this scene, knowing that meters away there was a gruesome body.” —Annabelle Chase, Midnight Redemption


Quitting A Habit

A beautiful season hanging on for a few more days, I’m rejoicing in a few things I’ve done right this year.

I’ve reached a new plateau in my life. I can confidently announce that I have quit a bad habit.

My physical therapist emphatically said that if I quit crossing my legs that my back pain would improve.

Honestly, I didn’t believe it and normally would have discounted her suggestion, but my youngest daughter was with me during that appointment. As you can imagine, my daughter gently, but repeatedly, reminded me to uncross my legs so often that the next day I decided I would draw up my strength and give it a try. After all, I was in charge here, right?

I realized that only I, myself, had control over changing my situation. I had to decide to do it. After a couple of months now, I can happily announce that I’ve been successful. Who knew?

A personal habit becomes a part of us. And it’s comfortable like an old shoe. But why was this habit so important to me?

As I began to deconstruct it, I realized it probably began in cramped spaces like movie theaters or flying across country. But there was something more. I discovered that crossing my legs gave me a sense of confidence.

An example. When I worked at a PBS affiliate years ago, I crossed my legs and leaned in toward the camera when I spoke to the audience. I felt strong, confident and in control. Now, I can’t strike that pose. Even for book club.

Of course, I’m not the only one who uses a habit or gesture. It turns into a good luck charm for some. Like a baseball pitcher who takes his hat off, spits, then puts it on again before he tosses one across the plate.

Changing is possible. The secret for me was to realize that I had control and that I could actually change. And then do it.

 But can something so small really make a difference? My back pain, along with exercise and walking, seems to be improving. And, I can’t discount the fact that I no longer cross my legs. It may be a small thing, but a small thing as we all know in other situations can make a huge difference.

The power to discover you can change a habit is empowering.

What’s next? Sugar?

Happy New Year to All of You!

 

In the blink of an eye …

Strangest thing.

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Thanks Pinterest!

Hurrying to my granddaughter’s volleyball tournament, I pulled into the overflow parking. Closing my door, I heard someone put on their brakes behind me. Not car brakes, but brakes like a runner sliding to a final stop.

I turned to look and saw a man bending over  to catch his breath. He was older than I was and it gave me pause to regret that I didn’t run anymore.

I shouted  to him and said something like “Good job.”

He walked over and smiled. Grey thinning hair, oversized sweat pants, an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a grey T-shirt.

“You know,” he began, “if Mr and Mrs. Smith  still lived in that house over there” — and he pointed –” they would tell you I run all the time.” He flung his arms to demonstrate that he ran in the area of  the sports center and  the large building next to it.” Been running since middle school. I’ve run one million miles for sure.”

“Know why I run? For my Jesssusss.” When I looked surprised, he repeated it.”For my Jesssusss.”

“Look at this.” He twirled around and pulled his outer shirt up so I could see. Not an ounce of fat. Then he turned back around and ask me to hit his ab area. “Go on, hit.” Hey, I felt strange about inspecting a man I’d known for less than 10 minutes, but he had hard rock abs. You’ve got to respect that.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“80.”

“Wow. And your name?”

“Ben.”

I told him I was Darla. “What a beautiful name,”  he said melodious, as it rolled off his tongue.”Beautiful.”

“I had a back fusion and don’t run anymore.”

“Oh, the Rec center has this machine — wonderful for that.”

We parted as we met. In the blink of an eye.

I walked away wondering. Was that meant just for me?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Listen

A funny thing happened the other evening.  I was playing Trivia Crack and my turns suddenly were gone and the game was over.

“Ohh, I thought I had a lot more time.” Those were the very words out of my mouth.

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The jolt I received made me realize that one day that might well be my last sentence.

The shock of it hit me so hard that I sat up in bed, despite being drained of energy, and wrote down those very words on a small 2 x 3 Thought Pad from the Hampton Inn I had visited recently.

I decided I would read those words every single morning to encourage me to be more productive with my writing, my life. The words could apply to any project you’re working on, but since I am a writer, I’m talking about writing.

So far, hearing those words over and over is working. I have found myself working more diligently, walking farther, staying up later.  It seems to apply to all areas of my life. It has given me energy when I was ready to take a nap.

For self inspiration, we need to listen to ourselves when we offer advice to others who need a boost.

All of the familiar words — “You can do it, you just have to believe you can do it. And then you have to work like crazy.” That type of remark? Sound familiar. Even as I say it to someone else, I am thinking how powerful those words truly are.

Be aware of what you say to yourself and what you say to others. You are your own personal motivational speaker.

 

 

 

 

ABSENT: Writer Missing …

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Missed me? I’ve missed you.

What happened, you ask?

In between pages, life happened.

Joined pain management group.

Snow melted.

Brother in hospital.

Dug up rose bushes.

Blazing sun arrived.

My sister and I celebrated 96th birthday of our mother’s best friend.

Brother sent to rehab.

Began editing final draft of Midnight Redemption.

Faced first cataract surgery.

Truck hit 12 vehicles at red light, car in shop, no injuries.

Brother placed in Hospice.

Need to research.

Editing slow.

Brother buried in Lampasas, Texas under a tree with weeping limbs.

Need to work, need to move.

Need to write.