Monday, December 19, 2016

The Last Real Christmas


              I was too old, I suppose ‑‑ especially by today's standards. Still, I believed. I ignored the other kids' claims about Santa Claus. I thought putting up the Christmas tree was a pleasure, not a chore. When I did have chores, I sang Christmas carols to pass the time. I refused to think of the holidays as anything less than magical.
On Christmas Eve, a sprinkling of snow dusted everything, proving me right. Snow for Christmas! Not so much that Grandma couldn't come over for Christmas dinner tomorrow ‑‑ just enough. Everything sparkled when the streetlights came on. Just before I went to bed, a flock of birds flew away north to give Santa one last report on good boys and girls.
That Christmas Eve, I wore my watch to bed, eager for it to read six o'clock, the earliest time we were allowed to get up. Long after my little sister fell asleep, I lay awake, dreaming. For a while, I knelt in my bed and looked out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of reindeer in the sky. Then when it seemed it must be nearly morning, I pulled up my pajama sleeve and looked at my watch in the glow from the streetlights.
Nine o'clock!
It would be hours and hours till morning!
The watch was still ticking, so I decided it must be running slow. I set it ahead fifteen minutes to compensate, then tried to sleep again.
The next time I checked, it was only nine‑thirty! Obviously, something was seriously wrong with that watch. Again I set it ahead a bit to make up for its slowness.
I don't know how many times I reset my watch that night. Now and then, between my attempts to control time and make Christmas come faster, I nodded off. Once I woke to the sound of what I was sure had been prancing hooves. Another time, as I drifted out of sleep, I thought I caught a whiff of pipe smoke.
Finally, my watch read six o'clock. I slipped out of bed and into my robe and crept out to the living room to turn on the Christmas tree. The mounds of colorful packages, the sparkle of the tree, the quiet magic of the morning made the torture of waiting seem worthwhile.
My parents found me snuggled on the couch, just taking it all in. Of course, they shooed me back to bed since it was only three o'clock in the morning!
It didn't matter. I slept well till my sister pounced on my bed and shook me awake. She was right to be excited, I thought: something beautiful awaited her.
            I think that was the last of the real Christmases:  the Christmases where the tree was like something out of a fairy tale and the wrapping paper covered happiness and hints of magic were everywhere. Eventually, I could no longer deny the truths and practicalities of the holidays.
Still ‑‑ I love a Christmas tree, the secrets of packages, the gathering of family. There's still a bit of magic in every Christmas.
And I don't have to turn back the clock to capture it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

You can disagree with me...














...but can't you do so thoughtfully and respectfully? 

I'm disturbed by the poorly reasoned and hateful way people "discuss" issues these days. I wrote about this problem last year in my (then) local newspaper, and I'm still concerned about the issue. So I'm re-sharing my opinion piece here. (Go to Page 7.) What do you think? Can we disagree civilly?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How Teachers Can Discourage Materialism



Materialism may seem like a huge problem that's beyond your control. You can't change our whole society! But you can take action in your classroom to discourage materialism. For suggestions, read my post on the JClub Blog.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Talking About Teens and Their Challenges



I was interviewed on An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media. The wonderful host, Elizabeth Reardon, and I talked about my book Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction (a faith-based resource for caring adults who want to encourage young teens to live their faith when facing moral challenges) as well as a variety of other subjects! You can listen to the podcast of the interview here. Tune into An Engaging Faith at 4:00 EST weekdays here. And check out the other great programs on Breadbox Media here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saints Said It!

 

Saint John Bosco said: The music of the young should be listened to with the heart and not with the ears.

For more wisdom from the saints, check out my Facebook page, Saints Said It!

Friday, July 1, 2016

More writing wisdom!

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it. Mark Twain

We write by the light of every story we have ever read. Richard Peck

A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories John Irving

I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity. Edgar Allan Poe

My books are water; those of great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.  Mark Twain

Saturday, June 25, 2016

More writing wisdom!

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up whenever you felt like it.         J.D. Salinger

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.                    Ray Bradbury

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Mark Twain

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you. Zora Neale Hurston

Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for. Mark Twain

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More Writing Wisdom!


All except the shallowest living involves tearing up one rough draft after another. Msgr. John Sullivan


I have likened writing a novel to going on a journey with some notion of the destination I will arrive at, but not the whole picture -- which emerges gradually as a series of revelations, as the journey goes along.     Rose Tremain

What a writer must enjoy, or at least tolerate, is the utterly solitary nature of the work. Lawrence Block

Writers should be read but neither seen nor heard. 
 Daphne DuMaurier

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.    Ernest Hemingway

Monday, May 30, 2016

Saints I Need Now!

Thanks to my first grade teacher, Sister Celeste, and her dramatic stories about holy people, I developed an early fascination with the saints. Once I could read well enough, I devoured every saint book in our school library and dreamed of growing up to be a martyr. Over the years, I looked to the saints for inspiration and turned to them for help.
I still do.
But sometimes I find myself wishing for new saints…special saints…saints who fit the life I'm living right now and the problems I wrestle with every day. I recently wrote about  these saints-that-don't-exist-but-really-should on the Catholic365 site. If you missed it, you can still read about Saint Peter the Podiatrist, Saint Kitkat Goodbar of Hershey, St. Tardia the Venerable Procrastinator, and all my other imaginary saints here

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Could we have a moment of silence? Please?

This was originally published in The Indianapolis Star several years ago, but lately I've been thinking again about the noise of our lives....

As soon as I start pumping my gas, it begins. A small television on the side of the pump comes to life, and a tiny talking head announces the latest news. Luckily, there’s a mute button. Unluckily, the mute button silences the little man for only ten seconds.

I never thought of pumping gas as a quiet moment, but now that I can’t escape a news report that I don’t want to hear, I’m suddenly appreciative of my previous gas station experiences. And I wonder: who decided that I couldn’t have that quiet moment?

Probably the same people who set up televisions in waiting rooms. Waiting around for hours was never great fun, but listening to too-loud cartoons hasn’t made things any better! I used to get this waiting-room zen thing going. It was practically meditation. Now I find myself getting more tense and impatient the longer I have to listen to that grating noise. Another quiet time bites the dust!

I can understand how someone might think it a good idea to install televisions wherever quiet raises its noiseless head. After all, many of us dislike silence so much that we listen to music every possible waking moment. Boom boxes, radios, IPOD systems fill the air with musical selections that one person has chosen to share with the rest of the world. The music in restaurants and bars drowns out not only the quiet, but also any chance of conversation. Oases like the gas station must have seemed disturbingly peaceful to whatever good Samaritan thought of using televisions to save us all from the sounds of silence.

Maybe the ever-present noise of televisions in waiting rooms and bars, music in restaurants, radios in passing cars, and cell phones everywhere annoys me because I still have some hearing left! I haven’t deafened myself with years of wearing headphones and listening to music so loud that the people around me can sing along. I don’t have to rattle the windows with my stereo in order to feel that I’m having a good time. And I don’t go to concerts any more, even for the relatively mild-mannered entertainers I like. My last concert required ear plugs just to be bearable!

I can still hear – and I’m tired of listening! Walking through a mall means being bombarded by constantly changing music as I pass different stores. If a ringing cell phone doesn’t interrupt a movie, somebody’s ongoing commentary will. Other people are always choosing the soundtrack for my life!

Does silence scare everybody? Are we afraid that we might be forced to interact with a stranger in a TV-free waiting room? If we’re not instantly available by cell phone, do we cease to exist? Without music pounding at our brains, would we have to THINK? And who knows what we might have to do with our kids if we didn’t have computers and televisions and video games!

I know we don’t have to listen to real birds since we have singing clocks. And we’re really involved with the lives of our television friends and family. And yes, it’s true that music hath charms to soothe every troubling thought out of our heads. But couldn’t we just try a quiet moment now and then?

Couldn’t we turn it all off?

And listen?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

More Writing Wisdom!

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.  Meister Eckhart 

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.  Somerset Maugham

Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. Neil Gaiman

The ear is the only true writer.  Robert Frost

I didn't have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one. Mark Twain

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. Stephen King 

All except the shallowest living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.  Msgr. John Sullivan

Monday, January 25, 2016

Saints Said It!


Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.

Those words of wisdom come from Saint Basil the Great.  For more inspirational quotes from the saints, check out my Facebook page Saints Said It. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Talking Teens and Their Challenges




     I was recently interviewed on An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media. The wonderful host, Elizabeth Reardon, and I talked about my book Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction (a faith-based resource for caring adults who want to encourage young teens to live their faith when facing moral challenges) as well as a variety of other subjects! You can listen to the podcast of the interview here. Tune into An Engaging Faith at 4:00 EST weekdays here. And check out the other great programs on Breadbox Media here.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Writing Wisdom

More quotes from my collection!

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.  Thomas Mann

The best thing that can happen in life is when you start work at eight o'clock and somebody says it's time for coffee break and you don't want to go.  Stephen King

The writer's magic word is BIC -- butt in chair.  Jane Yolen

A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories.  John Irving

Learn to love revision.  Wally Lamb

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.  Mark Twain

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
 Muriel Rukeyser