Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, February 25, 2022

Slip Sliding Away

I had every intention of grabbing a snow shovel to keep in the car before I left home that Sunday morning. You know what they say about good intentions. In this case, the road to church was paved with mine.

Driving happily west on Lorne Avenue, my car suddenly began doing its own thing, as though my steering wheel and brakes both forgot their life’s purpose at once. In what felt like slow motion, my vehicle slid into the left lane, then performed a complete one-eighty. It may have kept twirling like one of those Olympic figure skaters if it hadn’t skidded so far into the snowbank that my tires wouldn’t budge. Why, oh why, had I forgotten my shovel? That’s when it dawned on me that I had also—probably—forgotten to engage my ABS traction control. The nice lady behind me, whom I’ll call Good Samaritan Number One, saw the whole thing. She stopped and rolled down her window.

“You’re just going to keep spinning, honey,” she said.

“Got a shovel?” I asked.

“No, but my friend lives just around the corner. I’ll go get him. Hang on.”

While I waited, I called Hubby who was still home but leaving for work any minute. “Help is on the way and I’ll call you when I get out,” I said. “Then I’ll just come home. I don’t want to go anywhere without a shovel.”

A fellow in a truck came along and stopped. I’ll call him Good Samaritan Number Two. He dug around in the back of his truck. “My shovel’s buried in snow. I’ll run home and get another one.”

Pretty soon Samaritan Number One returned, but with no shovel. She’d found her friend still in his pajamas and not particularly enthused about joining our snow party. “But he’s coming,” she said.

Then Samaritan Number Two returned, with a teenager whom I’ll call Good Samaritan Number Three. Shovel in hand, he followed his dad’s instructions about where to pick away at the hard-packed snow behind my front tire. About that time, I realized someone was also shoveling near the back tires. Samaritan Number One’s friend had shown up with the shovel. I’ll call him Good Samaritan Number Four. He advised me to place my floor mats behind my wheels for traction. That was a new one to me, but I did it.

Samaritans Number Two, Three, and Four then lined up along the front of my hood and pushed while I put the car in reverse and stepped on the gas. Voila. I was free of the snowbank and back on the street.

Thanking everyone profusely, I gathered my floor mats and threw them in the car. Back in my seat, I took a deep breath and looked at the clock on the dash. It was only 10:58. Maybe I should carry on to church. I’d only be a couple of minutes late. Or would have been, except for a long train. While waiting for that to pass, it hit me. Not the train. A thought. I hadn’t called Hubby. Maybe I was more rattled than I thought. I put the car in park and sent him a quick text.

Arrived at church, found a seat, joined the singing. Congratulated myself for being there and not wimping out when my normal response would have been to go home shaken and crying. Maybe what isn’t killing me really is making me stronger.

Wait. What if Hubby didn’t check his text messages? I pulled my phone from my purse. Sure enough, he’d tried to call once and texted once. I stepped into the lobby and called home. He had not received my text. Huh. Oh well. All’s good.

It wasn’t until that evening I realized I had “texted” to our landline.

Lessons learned:

-Carry a shovel in the car.

-Don’t forget to turn on the ABS.

-Never text to your landline.

- Floor mats can be used to gain traction when placed up against your tires.

-Thank God for Good Samaritans!


Monday, February 21, 2022

Sing 'Til It Stops Hurting

If you’ve ever lived with chronic pain, you know how quickly it can rob you of the energy required to complete tasks, the ability to concentrate, and even the will to live. Yet, like a seriously spoiled child, the more attention you give pain, the louder it screams.

Have you noticed how pain tends to escalate when you’re trying to sleep? That’s because, with your eyes closed and your body mostly unoccupied, pain is pushed right into your brain’s spotlight. If you can distract yourself with a movie, a conversation, or a meaningful project, the pain seems to diminish because the spotlight is aimed elsewhere. The trick, then, is to keep that spotlight focused on other things.

Knowing this, I was intrigued to hear about some scientific studies done on the health benefits of singing. An article on, written by Rebecca Joy Stanborough, MFA, and medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, lists the top ten benefits of singing for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Here are only some of them.

Singing can relieve stress—provided it’s not in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re belting out a tune in the privacy of your home or car or singing with a group of people you know and love, Cortisol samples from your saliva taken before and after the activity will most likely reveal a drop. This is a clear indicator of less stress.

Singing may boost your immune system. Don’t we all need that these days? A 2004 study showed singing raises your levels of Immunoglobulin A, an antibody your body secretes to help you fend off infections.

Another benefit is where the pain relief comes in. When you sing in a group, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins can help promote positive feelings and change your perception of pain. Singing with a group may not be an option for you right now, but if you crank up your favorite recordings and sing along, maybe your brain won’t know the difference.

Singing can even help decrease snoring. In a 2008 study, researchers interviewed the spouses of choir members and the spouses of people who don’t sing. Guess what? Significantly fewer choir members snored.

Another good reason to take up serious crooning is to improve your lung function. Because singing involves the controlled use of muscles in the respiratory system, it can help people living with lung issues like asthma, COPD, and more.

I’m sure you know singing in a group contributes to feelings of well-being and belonging. I’ve found this true at church. When I view the live-streamed service from home, I can sing along with the worship leaders, sure. But it’s not the same as being present with others—masks and all! Could it be because one of the neurochemicals released when people feel bonded together is oxytocin, also known as the love hormone? Worship singing, in private or in groups, is all about giving God glory. But in his irrepressible love for us, he also makes our worship beneficial to us.

Did you know singing can soothe your grief? A 2019 study conducted among grieving people, revealed those who sang in a choir saw their sense of well-being remain stable. Over twelve weeks, the singers felt a gradual improvement in self-esteem, causing researchers to conclude group singing can provide wonderful support during times of grief.

Most of us instinctively know singing makes us feel better mentally and emotionally. Now Science reveals our bodies respond as well—which makes perfect sense when you begin to understand how our minds, bodies, and spirits all work together.

So, how do you sing when you’re in pain? It may mean opening a hymn book and forcing yourself to start. Push through. Stay focused. Don’t worry about how good or bad you sound. Just sing. Then try again tomorrow. See what happens.

At the very least, it can’t hurt.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Where did it all begin?

Nothing says romance like a trip to Rome…to view the flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine himself, exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria.

Let me back up a bit. Okay, more than a bit. To AD 496, when the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I. According to Wikipedia, the pope chose February 14 to honor Saint Valentine of Rome, who died by beheading on that date in AD 269. Legend has it the man was imprisoned for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. One tradition claims Valentine performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry. Could this be where the romantic angle started? Another legend says he restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer and wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution.

But he wasn’t the only Valentine to be sainted.

Valentine of Terni was a bishop in central Italy, martyred in AD 273, and buried on the Via Flaminia. A third saint named Valentine was martyred in Africa.

Some say that by establishing this Christian holiday, the pope was attempting to reverse a pagan celebration called Lupercalia. I won’t go into the fine details of the rituals involved, but if you were a Roman woman and it was mid-February, you could expect to have your backside slapped with a strip of goat hide to ensure fertility. You might also place your name in a big urn. (This reminds me of the Valentine boxes from my elementary school years.) Rome’s bachelors drew names from the urn and the resulting couples paired up for a year. At the end of the year, they could either marry or part ways.

That’s one way to do it. 

Ancient customs aside, our modern world spares no effort in taking advantage of Valentine’s Day in the name of profit. For your sweetheart, you can purchase everything from expensive perfume to cheap chocolate. Flowers are always popular. Dinner and a movie? Don’t forget your vaccine card.

Less traditional gifts include clothing, travel, or a box of conversation starters to deepen your relationship. Who doesn’t adore a good love letter?

If money’s no object, you can express your love in any number of elaborate ways. A week in the Mexican Riviera? Fresh flowers all year? A new wardrobe? Diamond bracelet? Yes, please.

Those for whom money is a factor (most of us) need to be more creative. If you ask me, gifts of your time and talents always mean the most. Can you cook, draw, repair, write, sing, or play something? Of course, these gifts require planning, which is precisely what makes them more valuable. Don’t make the mistake of grabbing the last card left on the rack for the person you claim to hold in high regard.

A glance at any store’s greeting card aisle this time of year will leave you convinced you’re supposed to also buy cards for your kids, your parents, your grandchildren, your co-workers, and your paper carrier. Let’s not forget the family pet. One website I looked at featured everything from heart-covered sweaters and hoodies for your dog to chocolate-covered strawberry toys filled with catnip for your feline. Imagine how loved your pet will feel with a monogrammed pillow or a red bow tie.

However you celebrate, I hope you spread a little love around on Valentine’s Day and every day.


Friday, February 4, 2022

What a Writer Reads

If I could time-travel, I’d return to high school where every morning my homeroom teacher subjected my classmates and me to a fifteen-minute speed-reading session. I would march over to my sixteen-year-old self and say, “Pay attention! Learn how to read faster! You’re going to want this skill. Your future will go much better for you. Trust me!”

Would I have listened? I’d have wanted more details, for sure.

Instead of applying myself, I surrendered too easily. When the speed-reading projector sped up to where I could no longer follow the story, I chose to simply focus my gaze elsewhere, probably on some cute boy. Or close my eyes and rest. Not only that, I proudly told myself I didn’t want to read fast. I’d rather savor every word and enjoy my reading. When the time came for the multiple-choice quiz, guessing correctly often enough to pass proved easy.

I now know those details I’d have asked my future self to reveal. I know that I became a writer. Writers need to spend a great deal of time reading for research. I need to read books on the craft of writing. I need to read novels in the genre to which I aspire. I need to read other genres to expand my world. Now that I’m published, I receive requests from other authors to read and endorse their books. Saying yes is always good, knowing they will return the favor when my books need endorsement. I also spend time reading my Bible every day.

How on earth can I ever get to the myriads of wonderful books I want to read simply for pleasure?

For fun, I took a reading speed test provided HERE. I scored 193 words per minute (WPM) with a comprehension of 82%. If that sounds good to you, it’s not. According to the site, the average speed is 200 WPM with 60% comprehension. To improve my score, I tried THIS WEBSITE and chose a short, simple story. That brought me up to 313 WPM with 100% comprehension. This site claims that for success in college, you should be able to read 350 to 450 WPM. Speeds above 575 WPM are typical. Yikes.

Is it too late for me to become a faster reader? Probably not, but I’d need to really want it and discipline myself to break old habits. How about you?

The notebook where I keep track of such things tells me I read 38 books in 2021. My favorite research book was The Absurd and the Brave by Michael Fathney, which helped me finish my novel about the British Guest Children who came to Canada as evacuees during WWII. A Guest Child himself, Fathney explains how the evacuation program worked, how absurd it was in many ways, and how brave were the children, their parents, their escorts across submarine-infested oceans, and their foster parents. To track this book down, our local library used the inter-library loan service. They found a copy in the Maritimes and had it shipped here just for me. How great is that?

The best personal growth book I read? What If It’s True? A Storyteller’s Journey with Jesus, by Charles Martin. He poses the question, “What if every single word of Scripture is absolutely true and I can trust it? How do I respond? Something in me should change, but what? How?” I’ll re-read this one, highlighter in hand.

In the can’t-put-down department, I chose Anthony Doerr’s
All the Light We Cannot See. It’s a WWII story about a blind French girl whose world collides with that of a German boy forced to become a Nazi soldier.

Going forward, I hope to read more from authors Kristin Hannah, Carrie Turansky, Genevieve Graham, and Cynthia Ruchti because of other great books I read last year. Let’s see if I can do better than 35 in 2022. Happy “I Love to Read” month!